Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Island of Dr. Moreau
Synetic Theatre

Also see Susan's review of Driving Miss Daisy

Paata Tsikurishvili and Pasquale Guiducci with Cast
H.G. Wells' 1896 novel The Island of Dr. Moreau considers ethical issues of experimentation on living creatures (vivisection), such as whether inflicting pain on an animal is justifiable if the treatment ultimately allows the animal to transcend its previous existence. Because it's also a chilling story about hideously deformed part-animal, part-human creatures, it's a natural for an adaptation by Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, and its company of double-jointed, crab-scuttling, almost boneless performers.

Company founding artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili both directs the unrelentingly intense 100-minute production and plays the title role. Dr. Moreau is a brilliant scientist, but he has come to see himself as God—all-powerful and without mercy. Taking the theory of evolution as his inspiration, Moreau implants his subjects with microchips and sometimes uses a staple gun to close incisions. His ultimate goal is to develop hybrid beings that combine human awareness with the superior strength, agility, vision, or other characteristics of the host animals.

Alex Mills, a reliable company member, has a less physically demanding role than usual as Parker, a naturalist shipwrecked on Moreau's island. Dallas Tolentino adds grim comic relief as Moreau's drunken assistant, while Eliza Smith projects a disturbing blend of childish innocence and blood lust as Moreau's daughter.

However, the largely nonverbal performances of the ensemble provide the core of the production. The primary elements of Phil Charlwood's scenic design are Moreau's elaborate lab equipment and a climbing structure on which the performers contort, shiver in slow-motion convulsions, and swarm at those they consider threats. Kendra Rai's elaborate costumes provide suggestions of animal features without becoming overly literal. Brittany Diliberto's lighting design balances the all-encompassing darkness of the jungle, pierced with green stars, with the sharply focused beams and cones of light in Moreau's compound.

Synetic Theater
The Island of Dr. Moreau
October 1st —November 2nd, 2014
Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, adapted by Nathan Weinberger
Dr. Moreau: Paata Tsikurishvili
Parker: Alex Mills
Montgomery: Dallas Tolentino
Sayer: Pasquale Guiducci
Daughter: Eliza Smith
Feline: Tori Bertocci
Creature: Philip Fletcher
Beast 1: Justin J. Bell
Beast 2: Usman Ishaq
Beast 3: Robert Bowen Smith
Beast 4: Sharisse Taylor
Beast 5: Janine Baumgardner
Beast 6: Kathy Gordon
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 866-811-4111 or

Photo: Johnny Shryock

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