Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Synetic, with its trademark use of physicality to depict emotional unease, may be the ideal company to dramatize the story of Quasimodo (Vato Tsikurishvili), the deformed man who rings the bells at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral in 1482; Frollo (Philip Fletcher), the priest who raised Quasimodo and now faces challenges to his life of faith; and Esmerelda (Irina Kavsadze), the Gypsy dancer who casts a spell over both men.
Vato Tsikurishvili, a massive yet graceful figure who also created the fight choreography, embodies Quasimodo as a man trapped in an ungainly body, who maintains his childlike innocence until he sees the destruction caused by hatred. Fletcher, on the other hand, carries himself deliberately at all times, desperately trying to tamp down the feelings he can't control. Kavsadze is a dynamo in constant movement, keeping the pace feverish.
Director Paata Tsikurishvili's vision of the story takes a step into surrealism by turning the cathedral itself into a character in the drama. The gargoyles on the external wall become extensions of Frollo's guilt and frustration, writhing in place or surging forward in a phalanx to commit acts of torture and sacrilege.
Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili keeps the tension high as Esmerelda dances wildly in the street, Quasimodo faces danger, an army of beggars attacks a stranger, and Frollo becomes increasingly vicious in his desire for Esmerelda and his need to blame anyone but himself. (The production makes good use of masks to show characters hiding from their own excesses.)
Anastasia Rurikova Simes' three-dimensional scenic design is almost cinematic in its many elements. It begins as the interior of Notre Dame, with a central cross bordered by tall pickets resembling church organ pipes, which conceal walkways that lead up to the bell tower; then the structure splits and revolves to depict the grimy alleys and gutters of medieval Paris. Brian Allard's hallucinogenic lighting, Erik Teague's atmospheric costumes, and Thomas Sowers' sound design envelop the viewer in this dreamlike world.