Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Beauty and the Beast
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of Clyde's, Selling Kabul, King Lear and Into the Woods

Irina Kavsadze and Zana Gankhuyag
Photo by Elman Studios
Nine years after its original production of Beauty and the Beast, Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, is returning to the gothic tale of love and courage with powerful performances and stunning visual imagery. Ben Cunis, the original director and adapter, is joined as co-director of this production with the original Beast, Vato Tsikurishvili, who also appeared in that role in place of Zana Gankhuyag at the press performance.

As with most of Synetic's performances, most of the performers do not speak, conveying the story through astonishing physical feats with elements of mime and acrobatics, enhanced with surreal shadow images behind a large screen. A narrator, Emmeranne (Rachael Small), sets up the story–how she turned the handsome prince she loved into the hideous Beast as revenge for his family's destruction of their love–and remains an insinuating presence throughout.

Tsikurishvili has lost none of his ability to dominate the stage. Costumed in armor of fur and leather, he manages to defy gravity at times while also flinging himself from raised platforms.

As Belle, Irina Kavsadze, also from the original production, holds her own against such an overpowering character. She is sensitive without being cloying, kindhearted and never maudlin, and demonstrates a deep courage based in empathy as she realizes that the Beast is not what he seems to be.

The ensemble slides easily among roles, as Belle's spoiled sisters (Nutsa Tediashvili and Irene Hamilton) at times become part of the corps of human statues serving the Beast in his castle. Original costume designer Kendra Rai, and Delaney Theisz who costumed this production, depict the servants in skin-tight suits the color of dusty granite. Other eye-catching outfits are Small's tattered black dress and large shawl (Emmeranne can transform herself into a crow); the vivid red shirt worn by Avenant (Jacob Thompson), who futilely pursues Belle and ignores her two sisters; and the costuming in a scene when the ensemble members turn into a pack of wolves.

Beauty and the Beast runs through April 2, 2023, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington VA. For tickets and information, please call 866-811-4111 or visit

Co-Directed by Ben Cunis and Vato Tsikurishvili
Adapted by Ben and Peter Cunis
Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili
Original Music: Clint Herring and Andrew Gerlicher

Belle: Irina Kavsadze
Beast: Zana Gankhuyag
Emmeranne: Rachael Small
Jean Paul: Irakli Kavsadze
Magnificent: Philip Fletcher
Claudette: Nutsa Tediashvili
Marie: Irene Hamilton
Avenant: Jacob Thompson
Ensemble: Osama Ashour, Lev Belolipetski