Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Founding Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili created the work from Dante Alighieri's 14th-century poem, working with Nathan Weinberger. Irina Tsikurishvili, Associate Artistic Director and usually the company's choreographer, directs. As with so many of Synetic's most ingenious productions, this one is wordless, using continuous movement alone to tell the story. (The program includes a synopsis, which helps viewers keep of track of which circle of Hell is which.)
The drama follows Dante (Vato Tsikurishvili), depressed and unable to write since the death of his love Beatrice (Tori Bertocci), as he travels through the underworld in search of some kind of resolution. The action takes place on Anastasia Simes' looming scenic designwith hovering, jagged boulders that turn into crumpled sheets of paperand resident composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze enhances the scene with his abrasive, rasping electronic score.
Vato Tsikurishvili is the steadfast heart of the production, and Alex Mills shimmers as his guide Virgil, but the real punch comes from the company's portrayal of the damned souls and torturers of Hell overseen by punkish Lucifer (Philip Fletcher). Lustful souls emerge from trap doors, entwine, then vanish; gluttons, who appear to have been mummified in plastic wrap, slither like insects; the greedy are forced to (literally) eat their gold; and the wrathful progress from monstrous infants to vicious killers. Simes also created the costumes, by turns diaphanous and constricting.
The issue, however, is that a little of this goes a long way. This production gives the Synetic company extensive opportunities to show their moves, which defy both gravity and physical limitations, but enough is enough.