Thursday, September 22, 2005

The lobby walls of the Rosslyn Spectrum are dripping blood, strings of scarlet fabric oozing down to the floor, giving audiences a shivery indication of what is to come. And Synetic Theater’s fever-dream vision of the Dracula legend delivers — and then some — in an erotic and highly charged production directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, with sensuous choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili.

The palette of the piece is stark black with slashes of white, with blood splashes of red that startle and enervate. The music varies from the sacred to the operatic, but it is always thundering to match the overall high drama of the play.

An Eastern European influence pervades “Dracula,” which begins with Vlad the Impaler (Mr. Tsikurishvili) — the real Transylvanian nobleman some say is the inspiration for Dracula — wielding a blade and felling warriors with balletic grace. He impales them on red poles, their limbs swaying gently in death, and he barely gets a chance to admire his handiwork before he is beset by the Devil (Dan Istrate).

Vlad is reborn as the vampire Dracula, and out from his scarlet cape float three of his brides — Afet (Cyana Cook), Marya (Catherine Gasta), Catalina (Irina Koval) — who possess a deadly beauty and sultry, slithery moves. They swoop down upon Dracula’s guest, Jonathan Harker (Greg Marzullo), a British lawyer sent to Transylvania to complete some business.

“I have already dined, and I never drink … wine,” Dracula tells Harker in greeting, and things just get creepier from there. Mr. Tsikurishvili has a way of manipulating his body and his cloak so it looks like he is hovering on air currents, like a bat. The effect is eerie, so much so you start wishing they sold garlic necklaces at the concession stand.

Mr. Tsikurishvili has the spine-tingling menace of a vampire, but his powers of seduction are equally keen.

His ravishing of the Englishwoman Lucy Westenra (the excellent Jodi Niehoff) is exquisitely deliberate, as if his Dracula possesses a discerning palate and feels no need to rush, preferring to linger over every tender bite. Miss Niehoff proves a splendid victim, her deep backbends and swoons revealing her heated surrender. Even her death throes give the sense of orgasmic thrall.

The limber and expressive Mr. Marzullo has a similar moment of feverish sensuality, when his love for Mina (Anna Lane) is severely put to the test by a nighttime visit from Dracula’s brides, whose red-gowned bodies flicker all over him like tongues.

Later, Mina is preyed upon by Dracula, and he seduces her by slowly pulling a black silken cover off her white gown. The spill of blood across her pale dress is disturbing, but somehow hypnotic.

Synetic’s staging is full of extraordinary visuals like these, ranging from a bolt of black fabric that becomes the prow of a boat, heaving atop the waves, to a crimson spider’s web that looks like a network of throbbing veins, ensnaring both Dracula and his victims.

“Dracula” is a perfect project for Synetic, bringing together the intrinsic theatricality of the vampire myth with the troupe’s original blend of movement, dance, spoken word, music and dazzling visuals. Not since the heyday of Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat novels have we seen such a sexy and epic look at the undead.


WHAT: “Dracula,” adaptation by Jonathan Leveck from Bram Stoker’s novel

WHERE: Synetic Theater, Rosslyn Spectrum, 1611 N. Kent St., Arlington

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Oct. 23.

TICKETS: $30 to $25

PHONE: 703/824-8060


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