Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Don Quixote

Also see Susan's review of Venus in Fur

Ryan Sellers and Dan Istrate
Synetic Theater, based in Arlington, Virginia, produces a form of physically based performance that may be found nowhere else. The company's current adaptation of Don Quixote is muscular, visceral, and utterly involving.

The company was founded by Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, émigrés from the Republic of Georgia, with a mandate to bring together drama, music, dance, and other elements to create a new art form. Some of Synetic's performances are totally movement-based and incorporate no dialogue, while others, including Don Quixote, add language to the company's other tools. The program always includes a synopsis of the plot, but a viewer will never be bored simply watching the actors present one astonishing tableau after another.

Paata Tsikurishvili directed the current production and Irina choreographed to an original score by Konstantine Lortkipanidze, but neither of the founders appears onstage. Quixote is Dan Istrate, who earlier played the title role in Synetic's version of Dracula.

The first fascinating bit of surrealism in Synetic's vision is the use of ensemble members to portray the old man's stacks of novels: Quixote gets his initial inspiration to become a knight—or loses track of his everyday life—by ripping through these human "books." He also spies his nemesis, the evil Freston (Alex Mills, capable of almost unbelievable contortions), uncurling his body from a small box high above the stage.

The Synetic treatment is a perfect match for the fantastic elements of the story: without changing his costume, Istrate takes on the deliberate, stiff walk of a man wearing armor, and both he and his more clear-sighted friend Sancho Panza (Ryan Sellers) allow the audience to "see" their invisible horse and mule as they gallop from one adventure to the next. When Quixote sees the ragged peasant girl Aldonza (Natalie Berk), both he and the audience also behold the image of the knight's idealized Dulcinea (Francesca Jandasek) floating above. Berk also plays Altisidora, an imperious noblewoman who joins with a decadent Duke (Dallas Tolentino) and Duchess (Jessica Shearer Wilson) to have some fun at Quixote's expense.

A single designer, Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili, created the non-specific set, which seems to have been made from industrial machine parts, as well as the colorful, character-defining costumes and props. Andrew F. Griffin's lighting diffuses a curtain of light through haze and creates wild landscapes in deep greens and reds.

Synetic Theater
Don Quixote
June 2nd - July 3rd
A new play by Roland L. Reed based on Miguel de Cervantes' novel
Adapted by Paata Tsikurishvili
Don Quixote: Dan Istrate
Sancho Panza: Ryan Sellers
Freston, Peasant, Guard, 1st Damsel: Alex Mills
Altisidora, Aldonza, Ensemble: Natalie Berk
2nd Damsel, Ensemble: Katherine Frattini
Andrea, Ensemble: Brittany O'Grady
Dulcinea, Ensemble: Francesca Jandasek
1st Convict, Fool, Ensemble: John Robert Keena
Altisidora's Servant, Ensemble: Domingo Quezada
Muleskinner, Majordomo, 2nd Convict, Shepherd, Ensemble: Ben Russo
9th Convict, Duke, Ensemble: Dallas Tolentino
5th Convict, Lion, Ensemble: Vato Tsikurishvili
Monk, 4th Convict, Innkeeper, Ensemble: Ryan Tumulty
Duchess, Strong Woman, Ensemble: Jessica Shearer Wilson
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili
Original music by Konstantine Lortkipanidze
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 800-494-8497 or

Photo: Graeme B. Shaw

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