Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Mark of Cain
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of An Octoroon and Cabaret

Ryan Sellers
Photo by Johnny Shryock
Audiences that appreciate dance and movement, but may have been leery of Synetic Theater's wordless adaptations of classic works, will find a lot to like in the company's current work, The Mark of Cain. Director Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili have created a striking new work that starts with the story of Adam and Eve before following their son Cain in different incarnations through the centuries.

The setting is surrealistic: eyes in triangular frames hover above the stage, occasionally "crying" white balloon tears. An abstract tree made from metal ribbons, hung with balloons, is the major piece of scenery, and when the balloons burst (as they do throughout the 80-minute performance), they release clouds of colored dust.

In this version of the Genesis story, Cain (Ryan Sellers) and Abel (Dallas Tolentino) both outlive Adam (Scott Brown) and Eve (Tori Bertocci), and Cain's act of violence against Abel is rooted in sorrow rather than anger or jealousy. Cain is fascinated by evil and pain and, inspired by a dark angel (Kathy Gordon) with punkish red hair and a sleek black leather costume, he finds various ways of dominating and punishing those around him, from debauched parties in ancient Rome through contemporary media manipulation.

Interestingly, while God (Philip Fletcher) sets up the situation, he doesn't do much to help Cain after branding him with the "mark" on his chest. The dark angel may push Cain toward destruction, but she's there for him in a way God isn't.

Sellers, Tolentino, and Fletcher lead a cast of Synetic regulars who understand the company's methods of expression: gravity-defying poses, contortions, tableaux that include stylized orgies and people clambering over each other. Parts of the work may be mystifying, but they're never less than fascinating.

Synetic Theater
The Mark of Cain
July 19th - August 13th, 2017
Cain: Ryan Sellers
Abel: Dallas Tolentino
God: Philip Fletcher
Dark Angel/Ensemble: Kathy Gordon
Adam/Ensemble: Scott Brown
Eve/Ensemble: Tori Bertocci
Ensemble: Janine Baumgardner, Zana Gankhuyag, Irina Kavsadze, Megan Khaziran
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 866-811-4111 or

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