Can you get the full measure of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” without hearing Lear’s verbal rage against the Gods?
You bet you can—and without any of the words for that matter—in Synetic Theater’s “silent Shakespeare” series, now through April 24 at the Lansburgh and April 29 – May 9 at Synetic’s home base in Rosslyn.
This is a Lear with more than one fool, more than one clown, and one true mime who is the fool. This is the Paata Tsikurishvilli version of Lear, where all the characters wear painted faces, like some mad, violent circus troupe, damned and doomed to hell and gone. It’s also a full expression of just what’s made the troupe from Russia—head by Tsikurishvilli and his wife choreographer Irina—almost universally acclaimed by critics and rewarded almost routinely with Helen Hayes awards.
This production with its high, athletic and murderous energy, works almost like a bookend to the Bard’s “Lear” in the sense that it lays on the emotional content through movement, visceral visual vistas and the words that can seep out of and echo through silence. You’re reminded a little of Kurasawa’s “Ran,” a cinematic Japanese version of “Lear,” in which the last image is that of a blinded fool dancing on the edge of a cliff.
It doesn’t quite explain why Tsikurishvilli decided to make Cordelia a son instead of a daughter, and why Lear’s love and loss don’t quite get their full measure as a result.
Still, this production is an opportunity for DC city dwellers to catch the horrible, beautiful magic of Synetic, which is in a theatrical category by itself.