Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of Holiday and Broadway Center Stage: Guys and Dolls

Dan Istrate
Photo by Chris Ferenzi
Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, has long shown its affinity for dark and supernatural tales, so what would be better for the company than to return to the story of Count Dracula just in time for Halloween? Dracula, originally presented by the company in 2005, is a gripping and full-blooded (sorry) gothic thriller that maximizes Synetic's unique fusion of physical performance and psychological insight.

Nathan Weinberger has adapted the script directly from Bram Stoker's original novel, meaning that it differs in some incidental ways from other stage and film versions. He has also incorporated a prologue showing the transformation of Dracula (charismatic Dan Istrate, himself a native of Transylvania) from a medieval soldier defending his country against invaders to a vampire enjoying, and suffering, eternal life.

The production, overseen by director Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili, is never less than ravishing visually throughout its 100-minute runtime. Armies battle through clouds of stage fog; Dracula's cape morphs into the carriage taking Jonathan Harker (Jacob Thompson) to the count's castle, where actors wrapped in draperies stand in for furniture; many scenes, especially those with Dracula's fierce undead brides (Maryam Najafzada, Irene Hamilton, Anna Tsikurishvili), pulsate with feverish sensuality.

Istrate is properly magnetic in the way he bends others to his will, with resolute Renata Loman a powerful match as the vampire expert Professor Van Helsing. The faith and love conveyed by the two young women of the story, Jonathan's fiancée Mina (Nutsa Tediashvili) and her friend Lucy (Rachael Small), counterbalance the often humorous interactions among Lucy's three suitors: intellectual Dr. Seward (Pablo Guillen), flashy Texas cowboy Quincey (Justin J. Bell), and wealthy Holmwood (Philip Fletcher). Meanwhile, desperate yet defiant Renfield (Irakli Kavsadze), a patient of Seward, dominates his scenes as he carries his cell around with him.

Phil Charlwood has created an eerie set with components that change configuration as the scenes rush by, manipulated by members of the company as part of the action. Kendra Rai has created arresting, detailed costumes, mostly keeping to the general color scheme of black and red. Ian Claar's expressionistic lighting design illuminates the stage through the haze and cuts through the gloom with a vivid red spotlight. Koki Lortkipanidze, resident composer, has blended original music with elements of classical works to help build tension throughout.

Dracula runs through November 6, 2022, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington VA. For tickets and information, call 866-811-4111 or visit

Play adapted from Bram Stoker's novel by Nathan Weinberger
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili
Resident composer: Koki Lortkipanidze

Dracula: Dan Istrate
Jonathan: Jacob Thompson
Van Helsing: Renata Loman
Mina: Nutsa Tediashvili
Lucy: Rachael Small
Holmwood: Philip Fletcher
Renfield: Irakli Kavsadze
Dr. Seward: Pablo Guillen
Quincey: Justin J. Bell
Captain: Lev Belolipetski
Villager: Rodin Ruiz
Dracula's Wives: Maryam Najafzada, Irene Hamilton, Anna Tsikurishvili