Synetic Theater has long been known by DC theatregoers as the company that certainly dares to be different. Although its current production of A Trip to the Moon departs slightly from its traditional physical theatre productions, there is certainly an admirable innovative quality to the work that one would expect from any Synetic presentation. Guest Director, Writer, and Illustrator Natsu Ononda Power, responsible for the semi-recent Studio Theatre hit Astro and the God of Comics, brings her unique style to the Synetic stage. Although this production is certainly one that favors style over substance, the creativity at work is undeniable.
A Trip to the Moon melds aspects of Georges Méliès classic, silent 1902 film of the same name with two other tales – A Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and Laika the Stray Dog. Collectively, they consider space exploration, and the continuous human fascination with what’s beyond our own planet. Strung together with two musical interludes, a cast of nine Synetic regulars and newcomers, dressed in zany costumes (Kendra Rai), act out these tales with reckless abandon using rather amusing props (Suzanne Maloney) and interesting choreography (Irina Tsikurishvili). Different from most Synetic shows, voiceovers (featuring James Konicek, Ula Louise Olson, Guy Spielmann, and Renata Veberyte Loman) are used to tell the stories. The stars of the show, however, are Power’s illustrations and Jared Mezzocchi’s projection designs. These modern design elements, interwoven with acting and stories reminiscent of yesterday, light and fluffy musical compositions (Konstantine Lortkipanidze, who plays them live), and superb lighting (Andrew F. Griffin) result in a truly unique show even if it, at times, can feel like sensory overload.
Despite all of this brilliant showiness, Power’s writing lacks focus and purpose. Perhaps an underlying desire to pay homage to the silent films of the past sacrifices the telling of the stories and hinders the common theme from being fully fleshed out. The unclear narrative at play partly contributed to my desire for something more, but my general annoyance with the multiple voiceover reminders to the audience that we were witnessing a “Synetic Theater production,” made the evening all the more frustrating. The self-referential treatment was novel at first (and I get what Power was going for stylistically), but it got pretty old fairly quickly. Likewise, I also wondered if we stripped away the beautiful images on stage – projections and all – whether there would be anything left.
Still would I take this production over the 100th revival of a classic? Certainly. It certainly entertains and pushes boundaries.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
A Trip to the Moon plays at the Synetic Theater – 1800 S. Bell Street in Arlington VA – through January 6, 2013. For tickets, call 1-800-494-8497 or purchase them online.
Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock.