Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Director Paata Tsikurishvili and adaptor Nathan Weinberger have made a major change to the story to explain the hatred of the Witch (Irina Tsikurishvili) for the princess Briar Rose (Eliza Smith). Instead of an abstract representation of pure evil, the Witch is living a peaceful life with her baby son when a royal hunting party invades the forest where they live and, thinking she is threatening them, sets fire to the woods. Only then does she become consumed with revenge on the King (Dallas Tolentino) and, later, his daughter. An additional complicating factor is that the Prince (Zana Gankhuyag) who figures in Briar Rose's destiny is the Witch's son, to whom she has taught the responsibilities of magic.
Synetic includes a plot synopsis in the program, but the story is easy enough to follow with its striking visuals, performers stretching the boundaries of what their bodies can do, and a shimmering, surrealistic setting. Irina Tsikurishvili, also the choreographer, dominates the stage whenever she appears, and the three kind fairies who resemble brightly colored butterflies and watch over Briar Rose offer a sweet counterpoint: Francesca Blume, Emily Whitworth and, most notably, the comic-relief clumsy fairy played by Kathy Gordon.
The world conjured up by scenic designer Phil Charlwood, lighting designer Brian Allard, and multimedia designer Riki Kim blends simple elements in complex ways. Curtain panels hanging from above take on the deep green of the forest and the charred brown of burned tree trunks, with overlaid projections of brambles and flowers, but these panels also can be manipulated by the actors and woven into unfamiliar shapes or backlit to display silhouettes. Kendra Rai's costumes emphasize the use of color, from the vivid shades of the winged fairies to the Witch's austere black and red ensemble.
Synetic's form of physical expression is not purely dance or stylized movement, but a unique mixture of disciplines. The actors embrace, fight, strike vivid poses, and sometimes throw themselves around the stage.