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Staging Shakespeare without words would be a risky endeavor for most theater troupes, said Peter Marks in The Washington Post.
Yet the “elastic, athletic actor-dancers” who perform as Synetic Theater deliver a wordless rendition of a Shakespearean tragedy that captures the poetic essence of Shakespeare in 95 minutes of dynamic physical movement. Company founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili direct and choreograph the action of this talented troupe, which “tends to be heard most purely when it is speaking with its arms and legs.” At every turn, they’re staging an acrobatic version of the Battle of Actium or having their actors impressively mime scenes that portray backroom Roman politics. Words would just “get in the way.”
Synetic’s Antony and Cleopatra is one of the most “richly conceived” and “confidently executed” visions of Shakespeare I’ve ever seen, said Trey Graham in the Washington City Paper. Irina Tsikurishvili, a brilliant and beautiful dancer in her own right, also portrays Cleopatra. Watching her “square off smolderingly” against Ben Cunis’ Antony—in a passionate series of exchanges that culminates in an “athletic upright coupling atop a 20-foot pyramid”—is simply breathtaking. You’ll scarcely miss the dialogue as these “titanic personalities” clash against the backdrop of the production’s “hallucinatory stage pictures, impossible contortions, and rousing fight sequences.”
To the play’s traditional five acts, Synetic adds a prologue that illuminates the rulers’ complicated alliance, said Barbara MacKay in the Washington Examiner. It ends with a “priceless, sensual scene” that sees Tsikurishvili’s Cleopatra dressed in a revealing turquoise harem outfit, lithely descending the steps of her palace. Watching Cunis’ Antony try in vain to conceal his desire for this “Oriental queen” turns out to be perfect preparation for the “enthralling love-and-lust story” that follows. That such scenes are performed entirely in dance brings the passion and tumult of this doomed relationship to the fore. It also proves that Shakespeare, even without words, retains the power to move us.
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