Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Gypsy
Because Synetic's method is about "fitting the action to the word," to paraphrase Shakespeare, adapter Nathan Weinberger adds a prologue that sets up the initial plot situation. The audience first sees twins Viola (Irina Tsikurishvili) and Sebastian (Alex Mills) as entertainers on board a cruise ship, dressed in matching men's suits until Viola changes into a sparkling flapper dress. After a shipwreck separates the twins, all the rescued Viola has is a suitcase containing her men's clothesso that is what she wears as she makes her way.
Vision and deceptive surfaces are the key visual motifs of this production. Two clowns representing a director and a stagehand appear on the fringes of the action throughout, setting up scenes and occasionally providing some charming, low-tech special effects. Also, many scenes conjured up in the play by Shakespeare's wordsOlivia's (Kathy Gordon) frenzied mourning for her own brother, Malvolio's (Irakli Kavsadze) fantasies of Olivia's loveappear as if on film, enacted by live actors behind an illuminated screen.
As Viola, Irina Tsikurishvili serves as the heart of this production: stalwart, determined to do what's right no matter how ridiculous the situation might be. Gordon is a study in contrasts, whose black mourning dress still has a fashionable fringed hem, while Philip Fletcher is sleekly appealing as Orsino. Kavsadze is deliriously funny as Malvolio as he shifts from smug contentment to unrestrained gestures of love and lust.
Kendra Rai's costume design (commedia dell'arte meets the Roaring Twenties) and Colin K. Bills' exaggerated lighting design add measurably to the illusion, which culminates in an extended dancing finale to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing."