“Beauty and the Beast,” not the Disney version, runs at Synetic Theater through April 2.
The story of “Beauty and the Beast” is a timeless tale, and though most people envision the popular Disney musical, the show’s origins are actually much darker and nuanced.
Synetic Theater is currently staging the show, with performances through April 2.
Co-directed by Ben Cunis and Vato Tsikurishvili, and choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili, this version of “Beauty and the Beast” draws on the darkness and sensuality of the original French novel, “La Belle et la Bête,” and the 1946 Cocteau film of the same name.
Synetic Theater is known for telling stories through motion, and as such, the only words spoken in the show are by a puppet of a crow, who narrates the story. In the show, Irina Kavsadze plays Belle, Zana Gankhuyag performs as the Beast and Rachael Small serves as narrator Emmeranne. The cast also includes Irakli Kavsadze, Philip Fletcher, Nutsa Tediashvili, Irene Hamilton, Jacob Thompson, Osama Ashour and Lev Belolipetski.
Vato Tsikurishvili describes Synetic’s version as a “Gothic romance” told with unparalleled expressionistic design, puppetry and movement. In other words, there’s no Disneyesque singing going on.
“Whether or not you’re familiar with ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ this is a special run,” Vato says. “Even if you know it, it’s going to be very different. You’ll be surprised, you’ll be shocked and you’ll go through the full spectrum of emotions and have a very Synetic experience.”
The son of Synetic co-founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, Vato has been working with his parents since the age of 4, performing in the theater and serving in numerous roles. He even played the character of the Beast in 2014, when Synetic first put on a production of this adaptation.
“We immigrated to this country in 1995 and in 1997, I moved to Columbus, Ohio with my grandparents and that’s where I grew up,” Vato says. “I moved back in 2007, already a junior in high school, and joined the company with my folks. I was always around the theatre and the artists.”
Vato met Canos when he moved back to the area and he idolized him as an actor and performer. Together, they built a strong friendship and now, Vato is thrilled to be directing alongside his friend.
“To work together is very easy for us,” he says. “We speak the same language, we know what each other is thinking. We also have my mother and the amount of experience she brings; her mind is incredible, and it all adds up to an amazing production.”
As co-director, Vato takes on the role of creating fight choreographer, providing plenty of flying kicks and sword fighting in the work. He has great experience in the latter, having trained in the sport under Olympic coach Vladimir Nazlymov.
“I love to create things that I think are cool and I would enjoy watching,” Vato says.
Originally, Synetic was going to put on “War of the Worlds,” but when Paata was in a bad car accident, the theater made the switch. Being co-director allowed Vato to take the time needed for his family and helping his dad.
“We’ve all had a lot of late night talks and really productive sessions to ultimately bring the show to where it is,” Vato says. “What makes this one special to me is how we got everyone together and the motivation. Everyone knew about the circumstances of Pops, so the heart of the show is so big.”
“Beauty and the Beast” runs at the Synetic Theater through April 2.