Synetic Theater ‘Dracula’ is an esthetic delight and visually delicious

The entire show flows as one long epic ballet, beautifully crafted and elegantly executed.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been the ultimate vampire tale spanning over 125 years. With its blend of horror and erotica, the account titillates and repulses the senses as the story follows Count Dracula as he pursues property in London and preys on the innocent.

Synetic Theater has opened its production of Dracula right in time for the Halloween season, always eager for monsters and stories rife with terror and gore. Synetic’s shows tend to weigh heavily on the physicality of the stories and this production is no exception.

Dan Istrate as Dracula in ‘Dracula.’ Photo by Chris Ferenzi.

Together, Director Paata Tsikurishvili, Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili, and Fight Choreographer Vato Tsikurishvili have created a visually delicious display of the sensual classic beginning with the visceral battle scenes from the popular theory that Dracula was based on the Romanian warrior Vlad the Impaler.

The stage is relatively bare, with multiple black boxes that are moved about as needed for a chair, bed, or platform. And different props, like large drapes, long poles, and a cage, are used intermittently throughout the performance.

As the show opens, Dan Istrate is Dracula, fighting against the attackers. During the clash a demon enters his body, turning him into a bloodthirsty vampire and reinvigorating the combat. Finally succeeding and after a long battle, the dead mount the boxes and drape themselves against long poles, eerily resembling impaled bodies. The effect is striking and subtly done.

Dracula’s wives are played by Maryam Najafzada, Irene Hamilton, and Ana Tsikurishvili. Costume Designer Kendra Rai has them perfectly dressed in bright red, with flowing dresses and sleeves up to the elbows. They move lightly and quickly, transforming into pieces of the set at times. At one clever moment, the three are lying on the floor with their arms and legs swaying and flickering like the red flames of a fire.

Jonathan Harker is played by Jacob Thompson, and Thompson plays the green solicitor well. His naivete offers several humorous moments in his interaction with Istrate’s not-so-subtle Dracula. Harker is ultimately held captive by the wives and barely escapes with his life while Dracula makes his way to his newly acquired property in London on a ship.

Back in London, Irakli Kadsadve as Renfield offers a touch of comic relief as the devoted servant of Dracula. He is imprisoned in an insane asylum in a cage (which he carries with him as he enters or exits the stage). Renfield is a vile character who feeds on small animals, insisting that “the blood is the life,” but Kadsadve manages to present his character with enough charm seeping through the madness that his scenes provide a bit of needed levity in an otherwise demon-leaning story.

Irakli Kavsadze as Renfield with Dan Istrate (background) as Dracula in ‘Dracula.’ Photo by Chris Ferenzi.

Mina Murray (Nutsa Tediashvili) is patiently waiting for her fiance Harker’s return and goes to visit her less innocent, desperately sought-after friend Lucy (Rachael Small). Lucy has the difficult task of choosing between her three suitors, Quincey (Justin Bell), Dr. Seward (Pablo Guillen), and Holmwood (Philip Fletcher).

Lucy’s section of the story is sped through a bit, and I feel more time could have been spent differentiating the two young women, as Mina’s moral fortitude seemingly plays a role in her survival. But that being said, the scene with Small’s Lucy in her white nightgown as she sleepwalks into the arms of the black leather-clad Dracula is quite heated in all the right ways. The use of blood effects creating the dripping red down her neck and back, staining the pure white material, is fantastically horrific imagery.

Renata Loman plays the infamous Van Helsing. Loman takes command the moment she’s on stage, and her forceful portrayal of the unorthodox Van Helsing realistically turns the tide toward the favor of living, which, until her arrival, seemed like a losing battle.

Synetic Theater’s Dracula is an aesthetic delight. Haunting and invigorating with its portrayals of passion, temptation, and desire.  

Dan Istrate as Dracula, with Dracula’s Wives in ‘Dracula.’ Photo by Chris Ferenzi.

The score by resident composer Koki Lortkipanidze has heart-pounding intensity, which blends with the mastery of technical theater, surrounding the actors with a carefully choreographed combination of sound, lighting, and scenery (Sound Engineer JJ Nichols, Lighting Designer Ian Claar, and Props Master Aleksandr Shirlaev). The entire show flows as one long epic ballet, beautifully crafted and elegantly executed.

Dracula is not for the faint of heart, so leave the children at home, but it is darkly romantic and devilishly tip-toes the line between sexual desire and deviance. The cast does a magnificent job bringing this show to life with their entire bodies and leaving nothing to be desired by the audience, but for maybe their own taste of the wicked.

Running Time: Approximately one hour 40 minutes, with no intermission.

Dracula runs through November 6, 2022, at Synetic Theater in the underground Crystal City Shops, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, VA. Tickets ($20–$60) are available online, at the theater box office (open an hour before showtime), or by phone at (703) 824-8060 ext. 117.

The Dracula playbill is online here.

People of all ages are welcome at Synetic, but for this production, parental discretion is advised due to frightening depictions of vampires, violence and blood, and sexual content.

COVID Safety: Patrons are required to wear a mask in all Synetic Theater spaces at all times unless eating or drinking. See Synetic Theater’s complete COVID Safety protocols here.

Cast: Dracula- Dan Istrate, Jonathan- Jacob Thompson, Van Helsing- Renata Loman, Mina- Nutsa Tediashvili, Lucy- Rachael Small, Holmwood- Philip Fletcher, Renfield- Irakli Kadsadve, Dr. Seward- Pablo Guillen, Quincey- Justin Bell, Captain- Lev Belolipetski, Villager- Rodin Ruiz, Dracula’s Wives- Maryam Najafzada, Irene Hamilton, and Ana Tsikurishvili, Understudies: Katherine DuBois, Natan-Mael Gray, Ariel Kraje, Josh Cole Lucas, Kaitlyn Shifflett, and Nate Weinberger

Creative Team: Paata Tsikurishvili- Director, Irina Tsikurishvili- Choreographer, Vato Tsikurishvili- Fight Choreographer, Silas Sandifer- Stage Manager, Nate Weinberger- Adapter, Koki Lortkipanidze- Resident Composer, Phil Charlwood- Technical Director, JJ Nichols- Sound Engineer, Kendra Rai- Costume Designer, Ian Claar- Lighting Designer, Brian Allard- Associate Lighting Designer, Alex Keen- Master Electrician, Phil Charlwood- Scenic Designer (Remount), Aleksandr Shirlaev- Props Master

Production Team: Carpenters: Josh Lucas, Tony Ritchie, Pete Neal, Gerardo Contreras, Electricians: Milan Robinson, Wes Calkin, Genevieve Ethridge, Susannah Cai, Lighting Board Programmer & Operator: Susannah Cai, Assistant Lighting Designer Lighting Board Programmer & Operator (student matinees): Lorenzo Miguel, Costume Assistant: Carolan Corcoran, Stitcher & Draper: Lily Valentin, Wardrobe Supervisor/Stage Manager (student matinees): Sam Fellman, Stitcher: Kasey Brown and Alia Radabaugh, Assistant Stage Manager: Stitcher Carly Thompson


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