Synetic Theater remounts its stunning ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

The wordless adaptation of Shakespeare’s timeless comedy is a feast for the eyes, ears, and imagination.

Synetic Theater presents a stunning remount of their award-winning production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was wonderful to experience Synetic’s storytelling in person again after exploring their streaming service last year.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of William Shakespeare’s most-produced plays — but this version stands out as one of the most creative and transcendent. For patrons who may be unfamiliar with the original text, the story sings through the artistry of movement and original music. As Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili puts it: “In a word: it moves.”

Despite the absence of spoken dialogue, one can’t help but feel Lysander’s line “The course of true love never did run smooth.” The three stories within this tale are interwoven with hijinks and passion — and certainly do not run smoothly.

Ariel Kraje as Puck in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Photo by Chris Ferenzi for Synetic Theater.

The stage is set with hanging cords and ropes that come to life through the lighting design of Andrew Griffin and Paul Callahan. The story begins in the magical forest with the birth of Puck, a trouble-making fairy. Ariel Kraje portrays the mischievous sprite with incredible dexterity and playfulness. Her comedic expressiveness is a wonderful contrast to the animalistic sensuality of Oberon and Titania, played by Philip Fletcher and Stella Bunch.

Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili demonstrates her understanding of character, movement, and storytelling — especially in the direction of Oberon and Titania as powerful rulers of the fairies. The choreography combined with the fantastic costume designs of Anastasia Rurikov transport us to the realm where these royal warriors reign.

Philip Fletcher as Oberon and Stella Bunch as Titania in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Photo by Chris Ferenzi for Synetic Theater.

The second setting introduces the Lovers and their dilemma: Helena (Anna Tsikurishvili) loves Demetrius (Aaron Kan), Demetrius loved Helena but now loves Hermia (Nutsa Tediashvili), but Hermia loves Lysander (Lev Belopiletski) — and Lysander loves her back. Unfortunately, Hermia’s father, Egeus (Vato Tsikurishvili), wants her to marry Demetrius, causing Hermia and Lysander to run off into the woods, followed by Demetrius and Helena. The quarrel scene was packed with acrobatic fight choreography by Ben Cunis and delightful comedic moments. I especially enjoyed Anna Tsikurishvili’s performance as Helena. Her portrayal is comedic and wildly expressive. As noted French mime and filmmaker Jacques Tati remarked, “Comedy begins in the legs,” and Anna Tsikurishvili stood tall and used every inch to show her obsession, depression, shock, jubilation, and everything in between.

The third grouping is the Players — the acting troupe rehearsing to perform for the royal wedding. These scenes were wonderfully entertaining, taking inspiration from vaudeville and early film comedies. This ensemble exhibits the most physical comedy of the show. I felt as if I were watching Bill Irwin and David Shiner clowning around on stage. The troupe’s rehearsal and performance were given live accompaniment from composer Koki Lortkipanidze in the role of Starveling. Lortkipanidze’s inclusion on the stage was unexpected and wonderful, adding another dimension to the pratfalls and physical comedy. The standout of the evening was Vato Tsikurishvili as Bottom — his physicality and comedic timing were impeccable. He portrayed the egotistical and larger-than-life character with complete control over his body — demonstrating his expert athleticism and understanding of physical storytelling.

Katie DuBois as Flute, Vato Tsikurishvili as Bottom, and Pablo Guillén as Snug in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Photo by Chris Ferenzi for Synetic Theater.

This production is 100 minutes of pure artistry. The shorter run time and lack of spoken dialogue allow the story to reach audiences that may otherwise not be able to fully engage with the text. My only qualm was with obstructed sightlines blocking some action happening downstage center. For those of us who are closer in height to Hermia than to Helena, I recommend finding a seat nearer the front or along the aisles in order to capture all of the wonderful physicality and facial expressions. Regardless of your seat, this production is a feast for the eyes, ears, and imagination!

Running Time: One hour 40 minutes, with no intermission.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through July 24, 2022, at Synetic Theater in the underground Crystal City Shops, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, VA. Tickets are $25–$65 and are available online, at the theater box office (open an hour before showtime), or by phone at (703) 824-8060 ext. 117.

The playbill for A Midsummer Night’s Dream is online here.

COVID Safety: All guests must provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test along with their ID prior to entry. Masks are required at all times. See Synetic Theater’s complete COVID Safety Protocols here.

SEE ALSO: A theater fan tests Synetic’s impressive new streaming service (review by Laura Mills April 7, 2021)

Digital versions of previous Synetic Theater productions are streamable here.


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