Review of The Nutcracker at Synetic Family Theatre
December 14, 2010
by Erin Link
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington VA 22202
Box office: 800.494.8497
Main office: 703.824.8061
Ryan Tumulty as the Mouse King and Dallas Tolentino as the Nutcracker
Photo Credit: Yulia Kriskovets
When you think of The Nutcracker what comes to mind for you? Maybe the familiar holiday story of a young girl and her love for her new wooden doll? Fancy music, costumes and lots of dancing? As well-loved as the traditional telling may be, there's room for a fresh look at this old story. Synetic Theater Director Lilia Slavova gives us just that.
Slavova adapted and directs an insanely action-packed and fast-paced, yet very intricate and magical, retelling of The Nutcracker and Mouse King, a fairy tale written in 1816 by German storyteller E.T.A. Hoffman. Most distinctive about this unconventional Nutcracker production? It's a heck of a lot of fun.
How do I know? Not only did I love every minute, but the 3-year-old girl and 6-year-old boys sitting on either side of me were frozen solid, eyes fixed to the stage, for the entire 70-minute show. They barely moved in their seats, not wanting to miss even one piece of the story. That's how well Slavova and the eight actors tell it.
We attended a Saturday 11am performance that started about 10 minutes late - then at last we heard the sound of chimes, as if far off in the distance. Then very, very slowly the lights faded to complete darkness and the fun began. A major piece of this production is a tale within a tale: "An exciting fusion of mime, masks and puppetry...sets out to delight young audiences with the forgotten story of "The Tale of the Hard Nut" - revealing how and why the Prince became the nutcracker!" Although the plot is indeed complicated and can be challenging to follow at times, the story - as presented in music that moves from moody to classical to almost disco-y, ever-changing lighting, and puppets very cleverly brought to life out of the holiday gifts that decorate the set - is so completely and thoroughly enchanting that it really doesn't matter if you don't know exactly what's going on.
Irina Kavsadze as Marie
Photo Credit: Yulia Kriskovets
The theater is small and comfortable, dramatically decorated on either side of the center section with oversized wrapped gifts. We were seated in the fifth row center. The rows are comfortably wide; the seats and floors are very clean. The youngest in the audience appeared to be about three years old. Many older adults were in attendance with families as well. There was a mix of casual wear and holiday finery.
Delightful, unexpected touches included a complimentary snowflake craft before the show began, as well as a festive display of cookies and lemonade, also complimentary. The cookies received raves from the many children partaking. There were three small cafe tables, each with two chairs, available for limited seating. The theater's restrooms are large and clean, and the family restroom offers a changing table.
The morning we attended, a little girl was celebrating her birthday. After the show, "Marie" invited her onstage and presented her with a Nutcracker poster signed by the cast. She also received a bouquet while the audience joined in singing "Happy Birthday." Information about birthday parties is available online.
The Nutcracker runs December 11, 2010 through January 16, 2011. Shows are held Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. There will also be holiday break shows December 22 to 24 and 27 to 30 at 11am. Additional shows are held December 18, 24 and 26, 2010 and January 1, 2 and 8, 2011 at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $20 at the door; $17.50 in advance (by phone or online). Discounts are offered for seniors, military and groups of 10 or more.
Synetic Theater in Crystal City is not difficult to find, thanks to helpful signage. Convenient parking is located in an underground garage (also clearly marked "Synetic Theater") and is free weekends and weekdays after 4 p.m. The closest Metro stop is Crystal City (on the blue and yellow lines), located one block from the theater. For a map and directions, go online.
Winner of the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Theatre for Young Audiences, Synetic Family Theater returns to its Shirlington location in 2011. Watch for The Magic Paintbrush, coming in February.
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