Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Sleepy Hollow
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Comedy of Errors and Heisenberg

Scott Turner
Photo by Brittany DiLiberto
Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, has created an engrossing and appealingly gothic production of Sleepy Hollow—but in this retelling, director Paata Tsikurishvili and adapter Nathan Weinberger have turned Washington Irving's classic ghost story on its head.

Most people are familiar with Irving's story about superstitious Ichabod Crane and the spooky Headless Horseman, set in New York state shortly after the American Revolution, but Tsikurishvili has decided to present the previously unknown story of what actually happened to the Horseman. Why should the tortured form of this Hessian mercenary (Scott S. Turner) ride eternally on his spectral horse (physically, an awesome puppet manipulated by three ensemble members; in spirit, the dazzling Maryam Najafzada)? Why can't he rest?

Audiences may get an early hint of where the story's going with the casting of Ichabod Crane—traditionally portrayed as a tall, gawky, scarecrow-like figure—with Vato Tsikurishvili, a hulking man who (it appears) gets what he wants. He swaggers home victoriously from the Revolutionary War and, during a rowdy party in a tavern, steals pretty Katrina Van Tassel (McLean Jesse) away from his gentler friend Brom (Justin J. Bell). There's even a rapturous dance representing the couple's wedding night.

Soon, however, the Headless Horseman starts killing people in the woods near Sleepy Hollow, removing their heads in an attempt to replace his own missing one. As it happens, Ichabod and Brom know more about the history of the ghostly figure than they've admitted, and it's all laid out in Irina Tsikurishvili's visceral choreography.

Vato Tsikurishvili uses aggressive physicality to show Ichabod's sense of superiority and the fears he tries to hide underneath, while Jesse conveys both beauty and moral strength in the way she moves.

The design team has created an imaginatively creepy forest setting, specifically Phil Charlwood's scenic design of metal mesh tree trunks wrapped in rags and pieces of furniture that seem to grow from the ground and Brian S. Allard's unearthly lighting design cutting through the haze in unnatural-seeming colors. Erik Teague's costumes ground the performances in period while still being fluid enough to allow free movement.

Synetic Theater
Sleepy Hollow
October 3rd - November 4th, 2018
Based on the short story by Washington Irving, adapted by Nathan Weinberger
Ichabod Crane: Vato Tsikurishvili
Katrina Van Tassel: McLean Jesse
Headless Horseman: Scott S. Turner
Brom: Justin J. Bell
Spirit/Ensemble: Maryam Najafzada
Van Tassel/Ensemble: Thomas Beheler
Van Ripper/Ensemble: Jordan Clark Halsey
Puppeteers/Ensemble: Anne Flowers, Megan Khaziran, Matt R. Stover Ensemble: Scean Aaron, Katherine Cardenas-Cruz
Live Music: Konstantine Lortkipanidze
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili Choreographer: Irina Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 866-811-4111 or