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Synetic Theater Celebrates Shakespeare Anniversary with Historic Hamlet

  • Maia Kay

April 23 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of famed playwright William Shakespeare.

A Washington-area theater company recently marked the occasion with a revival of its original wordless version of Hamlet from its well-regarded “Silent Shakespeare” Series.

Synetic Theater Company's Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili kicked off their independent career in 2002 with this silent version of Hamlet - which earned several major local awards.

The immigrant couple from Georgia -- Director Paata Tsikurishvili and Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili -- started the Arlington, Virginia-based company 12 years ago. The husband and wife team starred as Hamlet and Ophelia in that first production. Paata Tsikurishvili says that is how Synetic’s critically-acclaimed “Silent Shakespeare” Series started.

“Hamlet opened the door for us in a theater community and brought us many awards and recognition. That was a start for Synetic Theater that spread the word about the theater company that we are doing Shakespeare without text which is unusual and the same time very accessible,“ she said.

The company uses music, dance and pantomime to tell the story.

This time, Irina appeared on stage as Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. She says that Shakespearian language is universal -- and allows for a lot of creativity.

“We’ve done Shakespeare in many different ways: we’ve done Shakespeare in ((the)) Twenties in Twelfth Night; we had also Shakespeare on the sand, it was King Lear; and we’ve done The Tempest in water," Tsikurishvili said.

For veteran Synetic actor Alex Mills, portraying Hamlet was a challenging experience -- and an immense responsibility.

“For Paata to pass it along to me, having it been a role that he developed originally, in a way it feels like passing along a torch, you know, entrusting me to carry that role in the show,” he said.

The role of Ophelia was a childhood dream for 20-year-old Irina Kavsadze, who comes from a dynasty of famous actors.

“My first interaction with Shakespeare was silent. Before I started reading Shakespeare on my own or in school, I saw this Hamlet for the first time. I was nine years old; I hadn't read any other Shakespeare," Kavsadze said.

Since its inception, Synetic Theater Company has received 24 Helen Hayes Awards -- a prestigious Washington-area recognition -- and 92 nominations. Victor Shargai, who chairs the awards, has witnessed the group's success from the very beginning.

“What they have done for Washington theater is really very, very important. For the national theater, for the entire country," he said.

And in January of this year, Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili were honored as Washingtonians of the Year" by Washingtonian Magazine for their contributions to the local Theater community.
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