Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Tell-Tale Heart
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent review of Something Moving: A Meditation on Maynard

Irakli Kavsadze and Alex Mills
Photo by Jorge Amaya
Synetic Theater's thrilling adaptation of The Tell-Tale Heart marks the return to directing of Paata Tsikurishvili, the company's founding artistic director, following his recovery from serious injuries he suffered in an accident late last year. He has explained that he began taking a deeper look at Edgar Allan Poe's masterpiece of madness and horror during his convalescence, along with recalling his earlier experiences caring for a family member with dementia.

Longtime company members Alex Mills and Irakli Kavsadze counterbalance each other ably as Poe's distraught narrator, now named Edgar after his creator, and the elderly man for whom Edgar provides care. In the Old Man's decrepit house, which as designed by Daniel Pinha seems in constant motion itself (dusty shelves revolve and shocking apparitions emerge), the constantly agitated Edgar begins to buckle as he is forced to endure his employer's violent outbursts and nonsensical rants. While Edgar swears that he has no anger toward the man himself, he admits to being maddened by the fact that one of the man's eyes is clouded and "vulture-like."

The company's movement-driven storytelling shifts into nightmare as Edgar finds himself propelled toward violence by a pack of human-size vultures (Lev Belolipetski, Kaitlyn Shifflett, Tony Amante, Josh Lucas, Zana Gankhuyag, and Vato Tsikurishvili) in forbidding black coats, red masks, and metallic beaks (costumes designed by Erik Teague). Blood is spilled and bodies attacked, all in a slow-motion, surrealistic haze as lit by Brian S. Allard. One powerful scene is lit solely by flashlights held by company members.

Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili further draws the viewer into Edgar's troubled mind with otherworldly visions, such as when the vultures take Edgar and the Old Man to a ghostly carnival. Brandon Cook's sound design blends existing pieces of music with original compositions by Koki Lortkipanidze that expand the hallucinogenic scene into the audience.

The Tell-Tale Heart runs through November 5, 2023, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington VA. For tickets and information, please call 866-811-4111 or visit

Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreographer: Irina Tsikurishvili
Resident Dramaturg/Adaptor: Nathan Weinberger
Resident Composer: Koki Lortkipanidze

Old Man: Irakli Kavsadze
Edgar: Alex Mills
Vulture: Lev Belolipetski
Vulture: Kaitlyn Shifflett
Vulture: Tony Amante
Vulture: Josh Lucas
Vulture/Edgar Understudy: Zana Gankhuyag
Vulture/Old Man Understudy: Vato Tsikurishvili
Understudy: Natan-Maƫl Gray