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Dark waters

Added dimension of water gives added flair to Synetic’s latest

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The Tempest, Philip Fletcher, David Istrate, Synetic, gay news, theater, Washington Blade
The Tempest, Philip Fletcher, David Istrate, Synetic, gay news, theater, Washington Blade

Philip Fletcher, left, and David Istrate in Synetic’s ‘The Tempest.’ (Photo by Johnny Shrycock; courtesy Synetic)

‘The Tempest’
Through March 24
Synetic Theater
1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington
$35-$55
synetictheater.org

As it if it weren’t already daunting enough to silently interpret Shakespeare through stylized moves and gravity-defying vertical jumps, Synetic Theater has now added water to the mix. For its current take on “The Tempest,” the celebrated movement-based company has transformed its Crystal City stage into a lake of shallow dark water with stunning results.

Because the sea is so integral to the island-set romantic dramedy, performing in ankle deep water doesn’t feel all that farfetched. The play opens with Prospero, the disposed Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda landing on a remote, strange island. Armed with a magical staff, Prospero conjures a storm, causing his political enemies/estranged family members’ ship to wreck, landing them on the island too. And like a body of water, the story is always changing, whipsawing from splashy merriment to dangerous mystery to contemplative calm.

Paata Tsikurishvili’s lucid staging along with Irina Tsikurishvili’s wildly inventive choreography performed by a cast of impressively fit and mostly graceful young actors, go straight to the essence of the bard’s work, capturing its spirit while invigorating it with sexy, very watchable action. Whether a fight to the death between Prospoero and Caliban’s scary mother Sycorax (Victoria Bertocci) or a big dozen-person brawl, the glorious acrobatic combat scenes are stunningly staged by fight choreographer Ben Cunis.

“The Tempest” is the ninth installment of Synetic’s ongoing Silent Shakespeare Series. No dialogue is spoken. In fact, except for a few grunts and one or two harrumphs, the actors are entirely mute. And while you won’t hear Prospero waxing poetic, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” or treacherous young Sebastian barking “A pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog,” you will feel the full of impact of the text. What’s lost in spoken word is made up for in the expressive comedy, anger and poignancy of the movement

Shakespeare wrote “The Tempest” late in his career, incorporating varied influences from his other works. Similarly, the seasoned Synetic rises to the occasion, using its full range of skill in the retelling of this epic tale.

As Prospero, out actor Philip Fletcher convincingly conveys his character’s journey from anger to forgiveness and acceptance. His quietly compelling performance complements showier turns by Vato Tsikurishvili as the wild-eyed, indigenous island red devil Caliban and David Istrate as Prospero’s tender favorite Ariel (played as magically manic with a dash of Nosferatu creepiness by the almost unrecognizable, head-to-toe platinum-painted Synetic regular). And Irinka Kavsadze charmingly plays Miranda as an awkward girl on the precipice of becoming a lovely young woman.

With its expanse of dark water backed by a huge rock with a derelict, water-streaming grand piano to the side, Anastasia Simes’ set is serviceable yet mysteriously dreamy. Ragged curtains suggested torn ship sails and at times seaweed. Andrew F. Griffin lighting design and Riki Kim’s projections effectively create a feel of constant motion, the movement of the sea. Moody and hard driving, Konstantine Lortkipanidze’s original score helps set the scene and propel the fast-paced action forward.

For DC theater-goers, water-filled stages are all the rage around town at the moment. At Arena Stage though Sunday, Mary Zimmerman’s Tony Award-winning adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is being performed in a pool, and like Synetic’s latest, it’s also soaking both actors and a few intrepid front row audience members. Get wet while you can.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Night of Champions

Team DC holds annual awards gala

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Team DC President Miguel Ayala speaks at the 2024 Night of Champions Awards on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Team DC, the umbrella organization for LGBTQ-friendly sports teams and leagues in the D.C. area, held its annual Night of Champions Awards Gala on Saturday, April 20 at the Hilton National Mall. The organization gave out scholarships to area LGBTQ student athletes as well as awards to the Different Drummers, Kelly Laczko of Duplex Diner, Stacy Smith of the Edmund Burke School, Bryan Frank of Triout, JC Adams of DCG Basketball and the DC Gay Flag Football League.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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PHOTOS: National Cannabis Festival

Annual event draws thousands to RFK

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Growers show their strains at The National Cannabis Festival on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2024 National Cannabis Festival was held at the Fields at RFK Stadium on April 19-20.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

‘Amm(i)gone’ explores family, queerness, and faith

A ‘fully autobiographical’ work from out artist Adil Mansoor

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Adil Mansoor in ‘Amm(i)gone’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. (Photo by Kitoko Chargois)

‘Amm(i)gone’
Thorough May 12
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D St., N.W. 
$60-$70
Woollymammoth.net

“Fully and utterly autobiographical.” That’s how Adil Mansoor describes “Amm(i)gone,” his one-man work currently playing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. 

Both created and performed by out artist Mansoor, it’s his story about inviting his Pakistani mother to translate Sophocles’s Greek tragedy “Antigone” into Urdu. Throughout the journey, there’s an exploration of family, queerness, and faith,as well as references to teachings from the Quran, and audio conversations with his Muslim mother. 

Mansoor, 38, grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and is now based in Pittsburgh where he’s a busy theater maker. He’s also the founding member of Pittsburgh’s Hatch Arts Collective and the former artistic director of Dreams of Hope, an LGBTQ youth arts organization.

WASHINGTON BLADE: What spurred you to create “Amm(i)gone”? 

ADIL MANSOOR: I was reading a translation of “Antigone” a few years back and found myself emotionally overwhelmed. A Theban princess buries her brother knowing it will cost her, her own life. It’s about a person for whom all aspirations are in the afterlife. And what does that do to the living when all of your hopes and dreams have to be reserved for the afterlife?

I found grant funding to pay my mom to do the translation. I wanted to engage in learning. I wanted to share theater but especially this ancient tragedy. My mother appreciated the characters were struggling between loving one another and their beliefs. 

BLADE: Are you more director than actor?

MANSOOR: I’m primarily a director with an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon. I wrote, directed, and performed in this show, and had been working on it for four years. I’ve done different versions including Zoom. Woolly’s is a new production with the same team who’ve been involved since the beginning. 

I love solo performance. I’ve produced and now teach solo performance and believe in its power. And I definitely lean toward “performance” and I haven’t “acted” since I was in college. I feel good on stage. I was a tour guide and do a lot of public speaking. I enjoy the attention. 

BLADE: Describe your mom. 

MANSOOR: My mom is a wonderfully devout Muslim, single mother, social worker who discovered my queerness on Google. And she prays for me. 

She and I are similar, the way we look at things, the way we laugh. But different too. And those are among the questions I ask in this show. Our relationship is both beautiful and complicated.

BLADE: So, you weren’t exactly hiding your sexuality? 

MANSOOR: In my mid-20s, I took time to talk with friends about our being queer with relation to our careers. My sexuality is essential to the work. As the artistic director at Dreams of Hope, part of the work was to model what it means to be public. If I’m in a room with queer and trans teenagers, part of what I’m doing is modeling queer adulthood. The way they see me in the world is part of what I’m putting out there. And I want that to be expansive and full. 

So much of my work involves fundraising and being a face in schools. Being out is about making safe space for queer young folks.

BLADE: Have you encountered much Islamophobia? 

MANSOOR: When 9/11 happened, I was a sophomore in high school, so yes. I faced a lot then and now. I’ve been egged on the street in the last four months. I see it in the classroom. It shows up in all sorts of ways. 

BLADE: What prompted you to lead your creative life in Pittsburgh? 

MANSOOR: I’ve been here for 14 years. I breathe with ease in Pittsburgh. The hills and the valleys and the rust of the city do something to me. It’s beautiful, it’ affordable, and there is support for local artists. There’s a lot of opportunity. 

Still, the plan was to move to New York in September of 2020 but that was cancelled. Then the pandemic showed me that I could live in Pittsburgh and still have a nationally viable career. 

BLADE: What are you trying to achieve with “Amm(i)gone”? 

MANSOOR: What I’m sharing in the show is so very specific but I hear people from other backgrounds say I totally see my mom in that. My partner is Catholic and we share so much in relation to this. 

 I hope the work is embracing the fullness of queerness and how means so many things. And I hope the show makes audiences want to call their parents or squeeze their partners.

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