Every great young actor should get his shot at Hamlet. The Dane is the tragical crown jewel, the great emo star-maker. It’s to Synetic’s credit that upon remounting the production that started their silent legend they passed the crown to perhaps their brightest young star. Alex Mills takes the honor and runs with it. And leaps with it. And bends and thrusts and contorts with it. Mills’ prince is 50 percent spoiled brat, 50 percent Gumby and all ticking time bomb.
Or maybe loaded gun?
Philip Fletcher’s Ghost gets a lot of stage time here, acting as adaptor Paata Tsikurishvili’s sword to the Gordian-Knot level problem of putting on Hamlet without any words. Fletcher’s Ghost often quite literally acts as Hamlet’s puppet-master. He cajoles and taunts his mentally spiraling son, often pulling him back from the very act of vengeance he instigated, denials that serve to pull Hamlet ever more taut, like a bowstring, all potential energy and barely pent up mania. As the bodies pile up and Mill’s prince grows more unhinged and unpredictable, the show’s momentum, and theatricality, step up.
One result of adapting such a rich (and verbose) text is that some subplots suffer in the translation. Ophelia’s story feels especially short-changed here. The game Irina Kavsadze isn’t given much to do until a mad scene that’s staged lovely enough, if with an unusual level of restraint for Synetic.The relationship didn’t snap into place for me until Kavsadze’s final, near motionless, moments on stage.
Mills has more chemistry with Irina Koval’s boisterous Player Queen. Here, the play-within-a-play marks not only it’s traditional turning point in the plot but in the fun as well. Koval and Mills take a palpable joy with their clowning players, a scene that allows both actors room to show off their technical and creative physical acting skills.
As a years-long fan of Synetic’s work, it’s interesting on an intellectual level to see the very stripped down origins of the company’s now famous physical technique and high-fashion goth aesthetic. There’s little accoutrement here, belying a young company of more humble means. Hamlet proves that there’s a lot of theatrical mileage to be gotten out of a stark bare stage, some flashlights, a few mirrors and a skull.
Toned, trained young bodies don’t hurt either. The uniformly excellent members of the choral ensemble do a lot of the grunt work, alternately filling the roles of mourners, soldiers, accusers and door hinges. Those months and years of Synetic company training pay off.
No swords? No problem. The Irina Tsikurishvili’s choreography wrings all the grit and violence possible out of a couple of muscular young men doing the high-art version of shadowboxing.
HAMLET … the rest is silence
Closes April 6, 2014
1800 S. Bell Street
1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $50 – $65
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
Little stylistic touches abound, to various levels of effect. The colored shades worn by Hector Reynoso rank high on my personal list of cool costume details. Kudos to costume (and set and prop) designer Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili on finding those and, if somebody could let me know exactly where, I’ll owe you one. I also dug the very glam-rock-in-an-insane-asylum jacket Mills dons about halfway through. Other flourishes belie the decade-ago young company still finding its footing, such as the starter-level symbolism of an Ophelia draped all in flowing white, alone in a black-clad court.
So here we find Synetic, firmly established as a regional theatrical power, remounting their first big hit in their brand new, crowdfunded Crystal City home with a mix of company members original and new, reexamining their origins as they start a new phase? Motives aside, I firmly enjoyed the opportunity to experience how one of my favorite local companies began their singular artistic journey.