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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Home of the Soldier

Also see Susan's review of Double Indemnity

Home of the Solider
Zana Gankhuyag and Vato Tsikurishvili

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 accounts—improvised explosive devices, hostage videos, suicide bombers, and snipers—but 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.

Synetic Theater
Home of the Soldier May 31st - July 1st
By Paata Tsikurishvili and Ben Cunis
Son: Vato Tsikurishvili
Prisoner: Irakli Kavsadze
Kid: Zana Gankhuyag
Native Mother: Jodi Niehoff
Drill Sergeant/Sarge: Joseph Carlson
Fixer/Ensemble Soldier: Victoria Bertocci
Strikes/Ensemble Soldier: Dallas Tolentino
Jackal/Ensemble Soldier: Matthew Ward
Native Soldier: Pasquale Guiducci
Rev/Ensemble Soldier: Austin Johnson
Sauce/Ensemble Soldier: Jessica Thorne
Doc/Ensemble Soldier: Ben Arden
Native Sniper: Kathryn Conners
Native Soldier: Philip Fletcher
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 800-494-8497 or www.synetictheater.org


Photo: Johnny Shryock


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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