Host and Guest
nytheatre.com review by Brian Rogers
August 15, 2004
The Georgian (as in former Soviet Republic) expats at the helm of Washington DC's Synetic Theater are self-serious in a way that's all too rare these days. We're talking art with a capital A. Host and Guest, their exuberant and unapologetically melodramatic dance theater offering, is an embarassment of riches.
Adapted from the 19th century poem by Vazha Pshavela, Host and Guest is the story of a remote mountain village where a Muslim (played by Paata Tsikurishvili) opens his home to a sworn blood enemy—a Christian—with dismal results. Hatreds boil over, tragedy piles onto tragedy.
It's a powerful and familiar tale. Director Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili attack us with a seemingly endless stockpile of visual ideas. Several of these—most notably the production's many harrowing fight sequences—are like a punch to the gut, executed with cunning and precision by a cast of 16. Others—while it's impossible not to appreciate their formal beauty—smack of self-conscious theatricality.
Every second of this performance—and I'm only partially exaggerating—is played at a frightening pitch. That the ensemble manages, much of the time, to match this intensity with skill is no small accomplishment. But the near-total lack of silence here is suffocating. Many of the production's high octane moments, smothered with gorgeous orchestral music by Vato Kakhidze, feel overheated and unearned.
The Synetic company received a great deal of acclaim for a Hamlet adaptation which was performed without dialogue. One might have wished for a similar treatment here. The text, by Roland Reed, does little to augment the Tsikurishvilis' inspired visual storytelling; and too often gets in the way of this ambitious, well-intentioned, and fitfully brilliant exercise.