One would think that a show about joy would have little to do with theater- or much else, for that matter- these days. Yet Synetic Theater, that chameleon of invention, brings us little glimmers of joys past and joys to come.
Their current online offering, Joy!, is really two separate one-person offerings. This reviewer was fortunate to see Vato Tsikurishvili’s version of joy.
A longtime company member, Tsikurishvili is also the son of company founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, and the history of both his family and the company is intertwined in this piece. Presented on Zoom, it’s an interactive show of sorts: audience members receive, along with their ticket, a box of small props to be used at various moments.
The premise of the 50 minute long performance is a simple one: what gives you- or in this case, Tsikurishvili- joy? Best to ask first what denied him joy, and he tells us the journey his parents took from the country of Georgia, under Soviet rule until the USSR’s dissolution in 1991. The tale is a familiar one, of creatives fleeing an oppressive government, and it’s a reminder to those of us born here that not everyone lives in a country where its citizens can attain the joy freedom of choice brings.
The piece begins in darkness, and shows us our present: an empty theater- Synetic’s empty theater, in fact. Somber? Yes, but there are such possibilities in emptiness. Vato Tsikurishvili is a young man, not yet thirty, but his life experiences rival most adults twice his age, and it’s more than a little humbling to hear his story. Fleeing Georgia and the USSR, eventually his parents found a place here in the D.C. area, where its deeply original reinvention of theatrical forms has made Synetic Theater a playgoing experience like no other.
It’s that courage to reinvent that makes this a successful piece; Tsikurishvili uses the movement he’s learned to make what could be a static mini-movie into an experience brimming with life. His story is so unusual, and so mesmerizing, that this piece could well be a jumping-off place for a larger work about Synetic and the immigrant experience told first hand.
It’s also impressively adept technically, with projections, some subtle puppetry involving a balloon and various camera trickery, Tsikurishvili is transported to parades, landscapes, and interior settings. Though it’s a bit gimmicky, Tsikurishvili utilizes the simple props sent to audience members to great effect in his monologue. I will say, however, that it’s hard to pay attention to a serious bit in the piece when you’ve been given a small tub of slimy goop to play with.
It must be said here that Zoom is a tricky beast to wrestle with- the platform wasn’t created to host live theater pieces, and the technical difficulties inherent in live, unedited performance aren’t easily overcome. But if anyone’s up to the task, it’s Synetic, and Vato Tsikurishvili doesn’t let us down.——–
Vato Tsikurishvili’s Joy! performs in rep with Maria Simpkins’ Joy! October 16 – November 8.
Tickets: Show, $22; show plus prop box $34. Available here.
Joy! Created and Adapted by Chris Rushing . Performed by Vato Tsikurishvili . Director: Paata Tsikurishvili . Choreographer: Irina Tsikurishvili . Production Designer, Production Manager: Raymond Simeon . Assistant Production Designer: Yaritza Pachiko . Costumes: Stacy Walker . Composer: Konstantine Lortkipanitze . Stage Manager: Jade Brooks-Bartlett . Digital Lighting and Streaming Operator: Niomi Collard . Digital Media and Stage Effects Assistant: Anna Tsikurishvili . Master Electrician: Alex F Keen . Audio and Visual Engineer: Thomas Sowers . Produced by Synetic Theater . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.
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