- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Silent Shakespeare. What could be more blasphemous? If you’re going to profane the Bard, you might as well have fun with it. Synetic Theater’s cheeky take on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is delightfully mischievous and also retains the romance and magic of Shakespeare’s comedy.

Adapters Paata Tsikusrishvili (who also directs) and Ben Cunis distill the play into four acts and 90 minutes. The result combines visual splendor, astonishing movement and exceptional music by Konstantine Lortkipandze, which is most affecting when performed simply (and live onstage) on a piano, flute and electric guitar.

To understand what’s happening onstage, you should either read the synopsis in the program or be well acquainted with the plot of “Midsummer.” Otherwise, you risk being as lost in the woods as the play’s pairs of lovers on the lam. To sum up, Hermia (a regal Irina Koval) is in love with Lysander (Scott Brown). Her pal Helena (Marissa Molnar, graceful as a ballerina but a gifted physical comedian in the Carol Burnett mold) loves Demetrius (Roger Payano), but he’s hot for Hermia.

Hermia’s father (Irakli Kavsadze) orders her to marry Demetrius, and she runs off into the enchanted forest with Lysander, followed by Helena and Demetrius. Meanwhile, things are anything but bucolic in fairyland, as Fairy King Oberon (Philip Fletcher) is ticked off at Fairy Queen Titania (Irina Tsikurishvili) for her doting on a boy-toy changeling. They brawl - this being Synetic, the skirmish is more like a face-off between two sinuous belly dancers than a street scuffle - and Titania wins.

However, Oberon gets his revenge by enlisting the sprite Puck (Alex Mills) to bewitch Titania with the juice from a flower that will make her fall in love with the next creature she sees. For good measure, Puck squirts a little love juice on Lysander and Demetrius. It’s revenge of the nerds, as everyone’s suddenly mad for Helena and the lovely Titania throws herself at the donkeylike rube Nick Bottom (Mr. Kavsadze). By morning, sanity is restored, and the right lovers are paired up.

Synetic’s “Midsummer” is rife with mystical beauty - the scenes of the fairies attending to Titania and the shimmery dances between her and Oberon exude Oriental flair. The exoticism is enhanced by Mr. Mills’ extraordinary portrayal of Puck. With his seemingly boneless limbs and torso, he shape-shifts effortlessly into an array of otherworldly creatures.

“Midsummer” furthers Synetic’s reputation for physical artistry with inspired slapstick by Mr. Kavsadze. The actor suggests Nick Bottom’s transformation from a rustic to a donkey through facial expressions and gamboling movement and tempers the character’s vanity with a touch of sweetness.

The joys of shtick also are seen in the playful rendering of the Rude Mechanicals (Vato Tsikurishvili, Mr. Kavsadze, Ryan Sellers, Chris Galindo, Katie Maguire) rehearsing their Stoogey version of “Pyramus and Thisbe” and also doing hilarious one-minute versions of Synetic’s other silent Shakespeares - “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Here, silence provides many golden comic moments.

….

WHAT: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” by William Shakespeare, adapted by Paata Tsikusrishvili and Ben Cunis

WHERE: Synetic Theater at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through June 14.

TICKETS: $40 to $45

PHONE: 800/494-8497

WEB SITE: www.synetic theater.org

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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