Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Dante's Inferno
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of Angels in America—Part II: Perestroika, The Little Foxes and The Gulf


Alex Mills, Philip Fletcher, Vato Tsikurishvili,
and Lauren Ashley

Photo by Koko Lanham
Dante's Inferno may be the ultimate example of Synetic Theater's aesthetic of physically driven storytelling: the 100-minute performance in Arlington, Virginia, begins propulsively and builds relentlessly until it exhausts the audience. It's a fascinating trip, though.

Founding Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili created the work from Dante Alighieri's 14th-century poem, working with Nathan Weinberger. Irina Tsikurishvili, Associate Artistic Director and usually the company's choreographer, directs. As with so many of Synetic's most ingenious productions, this one is wordless, using continuous movement alone to tell the story. (The program includes a synopsis, which helps viewers keep of track of which circle of Hell is which.)

The drama follows Dante (Vato Tsikurishvili), depressed and unable to write since the death of his love Beatrice (Tori Bertocci), as he travels through the underworld in search of some kind of resolution. The action takes place on Anastasia Simes' looming scenic design—with hovering, jagged boulders that turn into crumpled sheets of paper—and resident composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze enhances the scene with his abrasive, rasping electronic score.

Vato Tsikurishvili is the steadfast heart of the production, and Alex Mills shimmers as his guide Virgil, but the real punch comes from the company's portrayal of the damned souls and torturers of Hell overseen by punkish Lucifer (Philip Fletcher). Lustful souls emerge from trap doors, entwine, then vanish; gluttons, who appear to have been mummified in plastic wrap, slither like insects; the greedy are forced to (literally) eat their gold; and the wrathful progress from monstrous infants to vicious killers. Simes also created the costumes, by turns diaphanous and constricting.

The issue, however, is that a little of this goes a long way. This production gives the Synetic company extensive opportunities to show their moves, which defy both gravity and physical limitations, but enough is enough.

Synetic Theater
Dante's Inferno
September 28th - October 30th, 2016
Adapted by Paata Tsikurishvili and Nathan Weinberger, based on the poem by Dante Alighieri
Dante: Vato Tsikurishvili
Beatrice: Tori Bertocci
Virgil: Alex Mills
Lucifer/Demon: Philip Fletcher
Francesca/Soul: Lauren Ashley
Corrupt Pope/Soul: Chris Galindo
Demon/Soul: Justin J. Bell
Souls: Emma Lou Hebert, Katrina Clark, Anne Flowers, Shu-nan Chu, John Millward, Kathryn Elizabeth Kelly, Chris Willumsen, George Kamushadze
Created by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 866-811-4111 or www.synetictheater.org


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