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'The Tempest': Reconciliation in an oceanic setting

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Entertainment,Barbara Mackay

It's not surprising that Synetic Theater Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili wanted to use water in his stunning new wordless production of "The Tempest." Shakespeare's play, after all, takes place on an island.

What is surprising are the multiple ways in which Tsikurishvili manages to use that water. He begins retelling Shakespeare's tale with the exiled Prospero (Philip Fletcher), once Duke of Milan, taking control of the island along with his infant daughter, Miranda (Irinka Kavsadze).

Then he adopts a witch's offspring, Caliban (Vato Tsikurishvili), and liberates a sprite, Ariel (Dan Istrate), from his entrapment in a tree. Once Miranda is grown, Prospero explains to her how long ago he was attacked by his sister, Antonia (Francesca Jandasek), and her co-conspirator, King Alonso of Naples (Ryan Tumulty).

Soon after, Prospero realizes that Antonia and Alonso are passing near his island on a ship. He and Ariel raise a tempest to wreck the vessel and drown all onboard, but Miranda intervenes and begs her father to spare their lives.

Onstage
'The Tempest'
» Where: Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington
» When: Through March 24
» Info: $15 to $50; 800-494-8497; synetictheater.org

Prospero relents, and Antonia, Alonso, Alonso's son, Ferdinand (Scott Brown), and brother Sebastian (Pasquale Guiducci), as well as the servants Stephano (Irakli Kavsadze) and Trinculo (Emily Whitworth), are washed ashore. The drunken Stephano and Trinculo cavort with Caliban, while the others wander the island, lost.

The action moves swiftly under Tsikurishvili's direction, playing up the humor in Shakespeare's original, particularly among the goofy trio of Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo.

The success of this "Tempest" depends in large part on the skill of its very talented actors being able to clearly mime and dance its complicated story, efficiently adapted by Nathan Weinberger. It also depends greatly on the unified contributions of its designers.

In addition to a large rectangle of water taking up almost the whole stage, Anastasia Simes' set employs lacy, hanging blue-and-green material to simulate moss. She uses screens and scrims against which Riki Kim's projections create a sense of moving water. She gives Ariel a silver costume suggesting wings and Caliban a red-and-black costume with horns and great goat's ears.

Andrew Griffin's lighting design evokes astonishing events, the tempest and Prospero's freeing Ariel from a tree being the most memorable. Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili creates fluid patterns of movement and a sensational marriage masque for the wedding of Miranda and Ferdinand.

Konstantine Lortkipanidze and Irakli Kavsadze's soundscape includes everything from crashing surf to lulling, lapping waves. Lortkipanidze's original music is at times lyrical, at times titanic, the perfect accompaniment to a play that is full of contrasting emotions.

Most important, this "Tempest" reflects the fact that Tsikurishvili has stripped away all superficial issues and focused on Shakespeare's true, central interests in the play: love and reconciliation.

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