Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
This is the 12th in Synetic's series of "wordless Shakespeare" productions, which express Shakespearean ideas and literary metaphors through physical movement rather than speech. In response to criticism by commentators and politicians who have not seen any of the productions, the wordlessness is meant not to replace the original text but to depict it in a different medium. For example, in this production Jaques (Scott Brown) presents the famous "Seven Ages of Man" speech as a breathless extended mime while wearing one mask on top of another.
The play concerns Rosalind (Taylor Robinson), daughter of the deposed Duke Senior (Irakli Kavsadze), and Orlando (Philip Fletcher), disinherited son of a nobleman, and their meetings at court and in exile in the "Forest of Arden." Tsikurishvili, who also directed, has reimagined Arden, usually an idyllic escape, as a grim post-industrial wasteland overrun by foragers. Duke Senior and his followers, including the musician Amiens (sound editor/resident composer Konstantine Lorkipanidze), work to forge a new civilization out of the ruins while Rosalind and her cousin Celia (Sharisse Taylor) take on new identities to fit into an unfamiliar world.
The visuals are eye-filling and endlessly inventive as choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili, with fight choreography by Ben Cunis. Kendra Rai has designed evocative costumes for both the courtRosalind and Celia make their first appearances in glitzy sequined dresses, while Duke Senior and his usurper, Duke Frederick (also Kavsadze), pick up the theme with sparkling tuxedo lapels and top hatsand Arden, where most of the residents wear worn hoodies and torn jeans.
One highlight of this production is the emphasis on women who fight back when they are treated badly and can trade blows with the men. Not only does Rosalind grab a gun at one point, Orlando's brother Oliver (Scott Turner) is shadowed by Audrey (Francesca Blume), a tough gal who seemingly stepped out of film noirat least until she arrives in Arden and finds a pair of tap shoesand Rosalind faces the unwanted advances of Phebe (Laura Artesi), who shows amazing muscular control as a pole dancer.