Water Stage at Synetic

Synetic Theater has another specular show — Tempest (see website and trailer), which runs through March 24th.  The Shakespearean play set in water is a delight to watch.  The storm, the shipwreck, the creation of magic, not to mention the waterfall piano, which plays…. The first three rows get raincoats to keep dry, but mostly the first row gets in trouble.  This water play follows another memorable performance of King Arthur on a water stage several years ago.

To my knowledge, Synetic is the first theater in America to use water in their productions.   This was done before in the 1990s and 2000s, on a Russian (St Petersburg) stage in Lev Dodin’s Platonov, Chevengur, and Seagull, among others.  Also, quite interesting are productions by a Dresden-based group Derevo that used water in Ketzal, for instance.  Derevo, however, is a rather unique and complex concept, to say the least, and probably not for American mass consumption at this point in time.

In Dodin’s plays water creates an environment (as in a stifling atmosphere of fatality and emptiness, a black hole, a poisonous marsh and so on), but it is a part of a stationary landscape.  Derevo draws on water in a more holistic approach but the group has a very unusual concept of theater and way of living in general.  Synetic’s director, Paata Tsikurishvili, is doing something different and, in my opinion, very consequential for the American theater development.  Essentially, all three approaches can not be compared.  At Synetic, the action is embedded in water, and water itself is an actor.

Human :-) actors at Synetic are no less  amazing.  Philip Fletcher (Prospero) has wonderfully portrayed the noble wizard.  It is too bad one can’t change the plot of the play too much because I wish even more time were devoted to Prospero’s role, as Philip has a great presence on stage. He is a phenomenal actor, especially for physical theater because he combines grace, strength, and outstanding dramatic skills.

Philip has a very long list of awards and nominations, to name a few, for Iago (three-way split personality where Philip is one of three) in Othello, the portrayal of the Witch in Macbeth, and my absolute favourite — Behemoth — in Master and Margarita.

Now, the latter role deserves a separate note.  Master and Margarita by Bulgakov is quite a special novel to a lot of Russians.  Bulgakov’s black tom cat, one of the devil’s minions who so wittingly plays tricks on Soviet bureaucrats, is a stout fast-talking creature about a short man’s height.  Trouble-maker in extreme and a glutton, Behemoth, which in Russian means ‘hippo,’ walks on his hind legs and is entirely different from what I saw in Master and Margarita at Synetic.  Philip’s graceful, tall Abyssinian hooligan at first called a silent remark in my mind, ‘What in the world is this?’  It was almost like taking my favourite teddy bear away!  After a few minutes of sophisticated mischief by this new creature, I was not as disappointed, despite my initial fervent protest.  By the middle of the play (the scene in photo below), he won me over.

Apparently, many viewers had similar experience.  This could be worth much more than any awards.  When an actor can so successfully unmold a stereotype, it is a very big deal!

Philip is going to appear in another, Russia-related play soon, which warrants a post here later this month. /*

photo

In the photo: Philip as Behemoth is in front.  On the right, Alex Mills as Azazello, in the back on stilts is Scott Brown as Koroviev.  To the left is Sarah Taurchini as Hella, and Armand Sindoni as Woland  in the middle.

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