So I had my doubts about how successfully the complex plot of King Lear could be achieved without words. Macbeth, sure. It’s short. Everything’s all out there. The most quoted bits probably aren’t Shakespeare anyhow. But Lear? Lear is rough when you have the words. I tried to read it when I was 15, and my brain just couldn’t absorb it. I tried again at 17, and that time it stuck. Lear has the parallel plots. One of the main characters disappears halfway through. And I heard this company was going to make it even harder on themselves by making Cordelia male.
I really shouldn’t be surprised by Synetic any longer. Heck, they won 4 Helen Hayes Awards last week. They clearly know what they’re doing, but they’re great at the trivial things, as well. Check this out. They greeted me by name when I came back after dashing off before the show to grab caffeine. (Yeah, well, it helps that the name’s in the show, but I was still impressed.)
So the show. It was freaking amazing. The Regan / Goneril danceoff was perfect at pointing out how ridiculous that entire scene is. The Fool was remarkably effective without words. Watching a silent version made me realize that my favorite bits of text in Lear aren’t actually in the main plot – they’re all in the Gloucester plot. I missed Edmund’s soliloquies. There was very little reason to like him without the words, and I think the viewer’s struggle at morally wanting Edgar to win but kind of wanting Edmund to win, just a little bit, is an important part of the experience. But above all, I missed the scene with Gloucester and Edgar on the cliff. The actor playing Gloucester came out to cast himself off the second story of the set, but Edgar convinced him not to jump. I think Shakespeare writing a scene where he manages to convince an audience (which is looking merely at a stage and not a cliff) that Gloucester is on a cliff and has not actually thrown himself off it but Edgar has convinced him that he has is a marvelous textual feat, and I don’t know that it could be done without words. The physicality of the show was amazing. I’m glad they did it without an intermission, but I don’t know how they did it. And the balloons were really an amazing touch. I’m not going to say anything more about that in case anybody reading this goes to see it before it closes.
Synetic Theater is the perfect storm of my passions. Shakespeare meets the Russian and European clowning tradition. I’m so grateful they extended the run so I could see it. If you want to see it, it’s showing in Crystal City (right off the Metro station) until May 8th. Click on the photo above for more details.
Photo: Irina Tsikurishvili as Regan, Irakli Kavsadze as King Lear, Ira Koval as Goneril, and Dallas Tolentino as Servant. Photo by Graeme B. Shaw. Also, if you click through, check out the magnificently-executed facekick Edgar gives Edmund in the trailer. Synetic’s stage combat is always a treat.
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Tags: shakespeare, synetic