Synetic theatre’s “Phantom” lacks catharsis

Elena Morey

Washington D.C.’s Synetic Theatre is no usual performing arts company. In Synetic’s own words, their name comes from “synthesis: the coming together of distinct elements to form a whole, kinetic: pertaining to or imparting motion, active, dynamic” which equals “Synetic Theatre: a dynamic synthesis of the arts.” It was founded in 2001 by the husband and wife team of Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, who dedicated their work to creating art from text and drama, aided by movement, acrobatics, dance, film and music. In the span of almost 20 years, they have received 134 Helen Hayes nominations and 34 awards.

This unique blend of styles creates a truly new form of theatre. Most of their more notable works are done without words, and rely on artistic movement, original scores and the dedications of the actors to carry the plot. Such works include “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Tempest,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Dante’s Inferno” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

As a theatre company and concept, Synetic Theatre is well-respected and renowned in D.C, and rightly so. I have been a fan and in attendance since I first saw their wordless “Romeo and Juliet” many years ago. I have attended every show since, wordless or not. I have even become very familiar with the regular cast members and sit in the same seat every time I see the show. To see their “Phantom,” I flew back to D.C. this past weekend.

Usually, Synetic leaves their viewers in awe of such a special performance, from the set, costumes, act- ing quality, storyline and movement. However, with all of the potential of “Phantom of the Opera,” Synetic failed to even come close to the infamy of the characters, score and set. Even if the original was not a musical, and was merely a drama, Synetic failed to come close to the depth of the plot. There were many ways Synetic could have adapted their version to retain the emotional depth and significance that the original possesses. There were many ways they could have used their creative angle to create something truly inspiring and new, even though they were using the famous opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Yet, I. Tsikurish- vili took center stage, and brought the entire show down with her and the chandelier in an anti-climactic and boring fashion the original phantom would be ashamed of.

Director P. Tsikurishvili and choreographer I. Tsikurishvili attempt to breach the famous opera without music, incorporating dance and their original score to transform a singer named Christine into a ballerina. The infamous “Phantom of the Opera” is more of a ghost who likes dancing.

This “Phantom” interpretation is far from Synetic’s usually dazzling and breath-taking performance. Instead, I. Tsikurishvili drags her audience through her slow two- hour, often painstakingly boring, rendition of the opera ghost’s ob- session with a younger ballerina who reminds her of herself before she suffered horrific burns dur- ing one of her own performances.

With this basis for the character of the Phantom, I. Tsikurishvili takes away the love between Christine and the ghost, which is arguably the strongest part of Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom.” With plot hole after plot hole in Synetic’s “Phantom,” the overall relationship between the infamous shadowy character and his Christine is weak and confusing. I. Tsikur- ishvili’s “Phantom” lacks any sort of emotional cathartic release.

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