- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

Something wickedly good this way comes with Synetic Theater’s wordless “Macbeth,” which mingles militaristic precision with sinuous supernatural touches.

Director Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili combine forces for a vigorous take on Shakespeare’s tragedy about unchecked ambition and snowballing carnage. In this visually arresting production — a spooky and paranoiac atmosphere of fog, flashlight beams, and flashes of sniper fire — Mr. Tsikurishvili and co-adaptor Nathan Weinberger start right off the bat with a political statement. The trio of witches has been re-imagined as a priest (Katherine E. Hill), an imam (Philip Fletcher) and a rabbi (Meghan Grady) who bubble, bubble, toil and trouble over a world globe instead of a cauldron.

The threesome morph into slinky, otherworldly hellions who insinuate themselves into the lives of career soldier Macbeth (Irakli Kavsadze) and his wife (Miss Tsikurishvili). The couple goes from Duncan’s (Dan Istrate) obedient subjects to Scottish versions of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, assassinating anyone who impedes their path to the crown — here envisioned as a glowing, fetishistic object, a charmed diadem that turns anyone who wears it into a power-mad tyrant.

Mr. Kavsadze is all sharp angles and honed edges as Macbeth, who in Synetic’s interpretation is not completely manipulated by his driven wife, but a willful partner in the killings. They have a teasing and seductive relationship expressed in the scene where they spar for the crown, a playfulness that shortly gives way to ruthless action.

Miss Tsikurishvili captivates as the voracious Lady Macbeth, but she also displays a startling touch of vulnerability, as if realizing too late that in her quest for dominance she’s lost her soul. Her “out, out damned spot” scene is a marvel, as Miss Tsikurishvili is driven mad by sleeplessness and conscience until she slips into the next life through a trapdoor, at once guilty and graceful.

Mr. Fletcher, Miss Grady and Miss Hill are kinkily enchanting as the Witches, incorporating ritualistic, incantatory movements with the snaky undulations of Middle Eastern dance. As Macduff, Ben Cunis turns the rage over his murdered family into ferocious prowess on the battlefield, incorporating balletic martial arts moves into his final skirmish with Macbeth.

Courtney Pauroso provides a refreshing comic interlude as a soldier rendered loopy by Lady Macbeth’s drugs and struggling to resume correct military posture.

As with many Synetic productions, the troupe does wonders with a limited budget, relying on ingenuity and impeccable physical training in lieu of technical wizardry. The scene depicting the advancing of Macduff and Malcolm’s army is done with elegant economy, bits of foliage draped over the soldiers indicating their being camouflaged as trees and the thunderous drumbeat precision of their footsteps spelling out doom for Macbeth’s brief reign.

Synetic’s “Macbeth” does not draw you in right away, but grows in power and visual magnificence until its bloody climax. As with their masterwork “Hamlet … the Rest is Silence,” Shakespeare’s poetry may not be spoken, but the lyricism is exquisitely expressed in movement and music that makes you see the playwright in a richly unexpected context.

Words not necessary in a Shakespeare play? Imagine that.

***1/2

WHAT: “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare, adapted by Paata Tsikurishvili and Nathan Weinberger

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

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 25.

TICKETS: $30 to $35

PHONE: 703/824-8060

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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