A lunar landscape at Synetic

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Entertainment,Music,Barbara Mackay

Natsu Onoda Power is fascinated by Georges Melies' 1902 movie "A Trip to the Moon," a 14-minute-long, surreal film about astronauts landing on the moon. She is equally intrigued by the way humans have always been fascinated by the moon. Being a playwright, Power expressed her interest in a stage version, and her carefully choreographed blend of ideas, music and visual effects is now playing at Synetic Theater.

"At first I thought I would do a collection of stories about moon travel: why people want to go to the moon, what the moon stands for," said Power, who teaches theater at Georgetown University.

"I discarded most of those stories and wound up with three: a Japanese folktale from the 10th century about a princess who comes from the moon; the story of the Russian space dog, Laika, even though the Russians weren't planning on sending a dog to the moon; and the Melies' script.

"The play quickly became about why dogs howl at the moon, what it means to attain the unattainable, and what happens after. For instance, in the story about the Japanese princess, the princess as a baby is only three inches tall. She grows up to be a full-size, beautiful woman and all these suitors want to marry her, but none of them can. Their desire represents something everybody longs for -- like reaching the moon -- but that is ultimately unattainable."

Onstage
'A Trip to the Moon'
Where: Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington
When: Through Jan. 6
Info: $15 to $55; 703-824-8061; synetictheater.org

The form used in each of Power's three tales differs depending on the story's content. Power's productions, which depend heavily on unconventional visual invention, use a lot of projections and animation. For instance, the Japanese folktale is told in Japanese ink painting, which Power taught herself. The Laika story is done in cutout animation, and the film is reproduced with pencil drawings.

Although the work is labor-intensive, Power was on sabbatical from Georgetown this semester so she could spend her days drawing, then go to rehearsal and come home and draw some more. Power worked with Jared Mezzocchi, the projection designer on this play.

"The play has nine actors," said Power. "They play a million characters. Jared is the 10th actor. The true challenge of this show is the quick costume changes that go on behind the scenes."

Asked if she would give a title to the kind of drama she is creating, Power demurred. "We're trying to create a new genre," she said. "But it still has to resonate. When you're giving people something new, there has to be something a little bit familiar, too. Making something unique is all about mixing genres -- a little old, a little new. Coming up with a fresh end result is really one of my favorite things."

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