Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Genesis Reboot

Also see Susan's review of Civilization (all you can eat

Mary Werntz and
Joseph Carlson

Genesis Reboot, the current production of Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, concerns an idealistic angel (Mary Werntz) who wants to restart creation in "a closed environment with controlled conditions." She hopes that Adam (Austin Johnson) and Eve (Brynn Tucker) might fare better in a high-tech Eden with a tree made of metal tubes, lamps suspended from its branches, and antiseptic-looking plastic drapes than they did in their original natural setting.

It's a promising setup—retelling a familiar story, attempting to "get it right this time," discovering that perfection is never possible and the creations have as much agency as the creator—and director Ben Cunis, a longtime member of the Synetic ensemble, has staged it engagingly. Cunis also wrote the script with his brother Peter; unlike many of the company's most eloquent performances, this one integrates dialogue with the extravagant physical expression for which Synetic is famous.

Cunis' staging begins with a fascinating image of creation, embodied by shrouded performers forming an amorphous blob on the stage, then spreading out and depicting the emergence of plants (legs shooting into the air), animals (advancing from lying flat to crouching, then standing), and ultimately the birth of Adam and Eve through a translucent sheet. From there, the story develops as Adam names the creatures of the garden and Eve tries to help.

Of course, the angel's desire to keep things simple is never going to happen. For one thing, a demon (Joseph Carlson) sneaks into the new Eden through a grate in the floor; for another, apples appear in the tree in defiance of logic, and no sooner does the angel take one away than another one appears. And that's before the appearance of Cain (Matthew Ward) and Abel (Jefferson Farber) in what appears to be a prison cell.

The thing about Synetic productions is that, even if the plot becomes hard to follow, the movement keeps the audience engaged. Daniel Pinha's set design is surprisingly sturdy; Andrew F. Griffin's lighting design bridges the everyday and fantastic worlds; and Clint Herring's original music and sound design adds another dimension to the theatrical illusion.

Synetic Theater
Genesis Reboot
February 9th - March 3rd
Written by Ben Cunis & Peter Cunis
Adam: Austin Johnson
Eve: Brynn Tucker
Angel: Mary Werntz
Demon: Joseph Carlson
Abel: Jefferson Farber
Cain: Matthew Ward
Directed by Ben Cunis
Choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili
Original music and sound design by Clint Herring
1800 S. Bell St., Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 800-494-8497 or

Photo: John Shryock