Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Home of the Soldier
Also see Susan's review of Double Indemnity
Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, makes a bold move away from its adaptations of classic works with Home of the Soldier, a visceral and fascinating exploration of modern warfare and the displacement soldiers face in an unfamiliar society.
The script by Paata Tsikurishvili and Ben Cunis, directed by Tsikurishvili, follows a young soldier called Son (Vato Tsikurishvili) through his military training and deployment; the fighting is in a land where the natives speak a language the soldiers don't understand and see little difference between the raids conducted by local insurgents and the presence of foreign troops. Many of the trappings of war are familiar from news accountsimprovised explosive devices, hostage videos, suicide bombers, and snipersbut Synetic's immersive staging and use of acrobatic movement give the violence a dreamlike, hyper-real quality.
The 90-minute performance watches Son as he becomes part of a fighting unit overseen by a determined drill sergeant (Joseph Carlson), forms a friendship with Kid (Zana Gankhuyag), and becomes determined to take on the Mother (Jodi Niehoff), an anguished insurgent leader, to rescue a prisoner (Irakli Kavsadze).
Unlike many of the company's works, Home of the Soldier incorporates dialogue which is by necessity profane and abrasive; a throbbing soundscape created by Kavsadze, along with Konstantine Lortkipanidze's musical direction, add to the sense of relentless forward movement. Cunis and Irina Tsikurishvili use a vivid choreographic palette: soldiers crawl and do backflips as part of their training, then jump and fly as explosions shake the stage (illuminated by Riki K.'s multimedia design and Andrew F. Griffin's lighting design) and dislodge the protective sandbag wall that dominates Daniel Pinha's set.
Interestingly, while Synetic's theory of acting relies on intense physicality, the main antagonists are noteworthy for their striking faces. Vato Tsikurishvili is a muscular man with a shaved head, but it's his powerful face that commends attention. On the other side of the conflict, Niehoff expresses the Mother's sorrow through dark eyes deep in a pale, blank face.