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The Master and Margarita

by Rich See

Irina Tsikurishvili as Margarita dancing at the Devil's ghoulish Spring Ball of the Full Moon.  Photo by Stan Barouh.
I. Tsikurishvili as Margarita at the Devil's ghoulish Spring Ball of the Full Moon
(Photo: Stan Barouh)

Once again Synetic Theater has created an amazing piece of dramatic interplay! This time with resident playwright Roland Reed's adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita. Everything in the production flows seamlessly as the piece flutters between movement and prose, incorporating dance music remixes, ghostly costumes, and wonderful lighting along the way.

Begun in the 1920s and finished in the 1930s, The Master and Margarita was banned for thirty years in the Soviet Union, not being first published (in a censored format) until 1967. And it was not until 1973 that the complete version saw print. As a revision of the stories of Faust and Pontius Pilate, it is also a satire of Russian life under the Soviet regime in the 1930s and considered an essential read for any student of modern Russian literature. Basically, the story in the smallest of nutshells is -- the devil and his entourage come to Moscow, reeks havoc on the city, and then grant peace to two unhappy lovers -- The Master, a man who has written a book about Christ and Pontius Pilate, and his lover Margarita, a woman who is willing to go to Hell on his behalf. Happily Synetic provides a scene synopsis in the program so you can follow along, if you are unfamiliar with Bulgakov's work. And I should note, that even if you are unfamiliar with the novel, you can enjoy this amazing production and get something out of it.

Synetic's production is directed by its Artistic Director, Paata Tsikurishvili, and he has merged the talents of everyone involved to create a highly visual and compelling piece of theatre-dance. Anastasia Ryurikov Simes' set and costumes are splendid. The set is a two-tier piece that alternately fills various needs as a chariot, hide-away, and the site of Christ's crucifixion. Everything is highlighted by Colin K. Bills' intense lighting which features heavy doses of reds and the use of shadows. Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili has worked with sound designers Irakli Kavsadze and Paata Tsikurishvili to create an auditory spectacle that equals the visual. The ambient selections incorporate drumming, DJ-inspired club music, Latin-style songs, and classical choral work that, mixed with the Russian-inspired dances, sends the production to a high level of artistic excellence.

Among the cast, Mike Spara and Nathan Weinberger as Ivan Bezdomny and Mikhail Berlioz (respectively), add some immediate comic relief as the philosophically debating friends who are arguing the non existence of God. Armand Sindoni is the delightfully evil, visiting professor Woland (who also happens to be the devil and who some argue also represents Lenin in Bulgakov's novel). Mr. Sindoni seems to relish his character's persona, which adds both drama and comedy at varying points. The Master is played with a tired reserve by Paata Tsikurishvili. When Nicholas Allen as Azazello, Woland's servant, breaks the fourth wall to share an insight with the audience it is unexpected and quite funny. Catherine Gasta as Koroviev and Miguel Jarquin-Moreland as Behemoth -- Woland's other servants -- create a circus-like atmosphere. And Irina Tsikurishvili as Margarita is quite touching as the woman searching for her lost love and then happily becoming a witch for one night, riding through the skies of Moscow seeking revenge for her Master. The use of voice overs to share her inner thoughts is impressive since the character never actually speaks to anyone but Azazello and then it is a telepathic discussion going on between the two. In this way the aspect of the character as a dancer is never interrupted.

All in all, this is one of the best productions this spring. Incidentally, Synetic has been invited to the New York City Fringe Festival to perform Host and Guest as well as recently joined forces with Classika Theatre to form Synetic-Classika. The Master and Margarita is the dual company's first co-production and shows a very promising future for Washington audiences!

The Master and Margarita
by Roland Reed based upon the novel by Mikhail Bulgalkov
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
with Paata Tsikurishvili, Irina Tsikurishvili, Nicholas Allen, Dave Bobb, Catherine Gasta, Armand Sindoni, Phillip Fletcher, Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, Irakli Kavsadze, Anna Lane, Geoff Nelson, Mike Spara, Nathan Weinberger, John Milosich
Set and Costume Design: Anastasia Ryurikov Simes
Lighting Design: Colin K. Bills
Choreography: Irina Tsikurishvili
Sound Design: Irakli Kavsadze and Paata Tsikurishvili
Running Time: 2 hours with 1 intermission
A production of Synetic-Classika
Rosslyn Spectrum, 1611 N. Kent Street, Arlington, VA
Telephone 703-824-8060
THU - SAT @8, SUN @2; $10.00-$32.00
Opening 05/14/04 closing 06/20/04
Reviewed by Rich See based on 05/28/04 performance
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