Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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 Cranetraditionally portrayed as a tall, gawky, scarecrow-like figurewith 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.