Arlington, VA 22206
Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes
A Potomac Stages Pick
October 10, 2003
When it premiered last year in the Church Street Theater, this Hamlet represented another step in the introduction of unique theatrical presentations which the Potomac Region has been enjoying since the formation of the Stanislavsky Theater Studio in 1997 by Paata Tsikurishvili, Andrei Malaev-Babel and their colleagues. The inaugural offering of Tsikurishvili’s spin-off from STS, Synetic Theater, in their new home at the Rosslyn Spectrum, is the revival of last year’s Helen Hayes Award winner (outstanding play, outstanding direction, outstanding choreography). As it did at the smaller, more intimate and older Church Street, here in this modern and perhaps overlarge hall, this Hamlet has all the hallmarks we have come to expect, the emphasis on motion and rhythm, the concentration on visual effect, the reduction of theatrical material to its essence. Its magic is cast completely without spoken language. The subtitle of this Hamlet has been changed from "performed through the art of silence" to “the rest is silence” but music remains an integral part of the experience.
Storyline: The prince of Denmark discovers that his uncle has murdered his father, the King, and wed his mother, the Queen. The quest for vengeance results in the deaths of guilty and innocent alike.
The work of William Shakespeare is considered by many to be the grandest product of the English language, yet Tsikurishvili and his Synetic Theater Company strip one of his most famous plays of its language. "To be, or not to be" never passes the lips of Tsikurishvili, who acts the part of Hamlet as well as directs this production. Silent or not, this is not, strictly speaking, either a dance piece or a mime. It is very much a theater piece and the performers, skilled dancers as they are, are actors first. It is highly choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili who also performs as Ophelia, Hamlet’s beloved. The choreography is in the service of a dramatic piece of theater instead of the other way around. Dance isn’t the reason this piece exists, drama is.
But there is a similarity to classic ballet in the approach. Just as the best ballet captures the essence of character, place and emotion, so does this piece. It reduces Shakespeare's plot to 14 short scenes which, like a ballet, only sketch the events. Instead of expressing those essences in the classical vocabulary of specific dance moves and postures, it uses the vocabulary of theater with all the attention to facial expression, gesture and body language along with scenic design, lighting and costuming. Although there are extended periods when silence almost becomes audible, the majority of the piece most certainly isn't silent. It is set to music by the contemporary Georgian composer Giya Kancheli and an uncredited piece of Mahler’s fifth symphony.
This Hamlet is surely a Hamlet. The story is all here and, after all, the tale didn’t begin with Shakespeare. He drew his story – as he almost always did – from pre-existing sources. The tale can be traced back at least as far as a Danish historian’s work around 1200, almost as long before Shakespeare as Shakespeare was before us. But the structure of the bard’s treatment is captured in this production. Is it Shakespeare? Well, not his language, but his drama. Besides, it is extraordinarily beautiful.
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili. Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili. Music selections from Giya Kancheli (and Gustav Mahler). Design: Georgi Alexi-Meskishvilii (set and costumes) Colin K. Bills (lights) Stan Barouh (photography). Cast: Shannon Dunne, Catherine Gasta, Irakli Kavsadze, Irina Koval, Jonathan Laveck, Greg Marzullo, John Milosich, Armand Sindoni, Irina Tsikurishvili, Paata Tsikurishvili, Nathan Weinberger.
Potomac Stages Review
Hamlet ... the Rest is Silence