Theater Review: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Synetic Theater

The Arlington physical theater company revives one of its most visually spectacular productions.

By: Missy Frederick

Mischief and magic await for those who dare to get lost in the woods with Synetic Theater. The Arlington company’s silent take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of its most beloved productions (this is its fifth staging), is back again this July. It’s a visually stunning piece, as well as one that truly embraces the comedy component of Shakespeare’s dreamy work.

The play alternates between two storylines—the adventures of the couple and would-be couple who get stranded in the forest and fall victim to the pranks of fairies and sprites, and the misadventures of five buffoonish actors attempting to put on a play. The silent nature of Synetic’s production adapts smoothly to the former storyline; some of the nuances of the play within a play get lost in translation, but the performers (led by the impressive Irakli Kavsadze as Bottom) are so adept at slapstick that the scenes generate too many laughs to quibble about what isn’t there.

The athleticism that pervades all Synetic productions is present here, particularly in the eye-popping gymnastic and dance abilities of Alex Mills’s Puck, the source responsible for much of the play’s trickery. Set and costume designer Anastasia Rurikov Simes has him completely in blue, from his spiky hair to his arms and legs, and Mills flips and leaps his way through the woods, swinging on vine-like ropes hanging from the set and playfully taunting the humans who are misplaced there. Simes’s lush costumes give an aristocratic but modern air to the lovers Lysander, Hermia, Helena, and Demetrius.

Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, the show is scored by Synetic’s in-house composer, Konstantine Lortkipanidze, and the music is brighter and less discordant than much of his work. Lortkipanidze gets a rare and impressive opportunity to shine onstage during the scenes with the actors—he plays an infectious live score during the actors’ show and rehearsals that changes rapidly depending on the mechanics of the play (or how the performance is proceeding). Just as lively is the choreography from Irina Tsikurishvili, particularly in a scene that has Lysander and Demetrius fighting over a scantily clad Helena (Emily Whitworth, both alluring and hilarious), tossing her through the air and grabbing her aggressively. Also lithe and lyrical are the movements of Titania (Tori Bertocci) and Oberon (Philip Fletcher), the sparring king and queen of the forest. Their charged rivalry, climaxing in a spell that causes proud Titania to fall head over heels for a donkey, permeates a production that deals in equal parts humor and wonder.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through August 4 at Synetic Theater. Running time is about one hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission. Tickets ($35 to $55) are available via Synetic’s website.