Metro Weekly

Synetic’s “Dante’s Inferno” (review): The perfect antidote to Halloween pap

Dante's Inferno tells Dante's story told through dance, mime and extraordinary atmospherics

Dante's Inferno -- Photo: Koko Lanham
Dante’s Inferno — Photo: Koko Lanham

If you’re looking for the perfect antidote to the deluge of commercialized Halloween pap, the revival of Synetic’s Dante’s Inferno (starstarstarstar) is your elixir. A decidedly PG-13 offering, this fabulously dark vision of Dante’s search for his lost love Beatrice through the many rings of Hell is not for the overly squeamish. It is also Synetic at its best -– embracing fully the edgy, the weird, and the wonderful, all with a sensibility that is unmistakably European. Like Synetic’s Silent Shakespeare series, Dante’s story is told without a word spoken, the narrative delivered through dance, mime and extraordinary atmospherics.

Carrying the title role is Vato Tsikurishvili, often seen in smaller comedy spots but showing here that he is ready for his close-up. With soulful, hungry eyes, Tsikurishvili expresses the determination and torment of a man venturing into the depths of Hell and its punishment of the worst of mankind. A powerful mover, Tsikurishvili is physically expressive without overdoing his gasp-worthy acrobatic feats. Serving as his otherworldly guide Virgil, Alex Mills draws on his extraordinary flexibility and creative sense of movement to make his body as one with his flowing robes. He is a strongly cohesive presence and serves well as our link between the rings. As the ethereal Beatrice, Tori Bertocci is intriguingly androgynous, moving with much grace. Her athletic pas-de-deux with Dante is a joy to watch, but would be even better minus the rock climbing.


As crucial as these evocatively-created roles are, the real stars here are the imaginations of the creator and the director, Paata Tsikurishvili and Irina Tsikurishvili. This is their Hell and the devil is absolutely and most excellently in the details. An opening and closing crack at the back of the stage allows for a series of starkly silhouetted images, several of whom are stunning in their innovative eeriness. And in this underworld, Lucifer is fearsome because he comes gently and strangely into view, garbed for an S&M nightmare by costume designer Anastasia Simes. His is a sly, insidious power, often delivered through his demonic minions. He arrives in person only to feast on the very richest of human psychological and emotional moments. Philip Fletcher dances this role with the perfect blend of weirdness and menace, using his long and lithe figure to optimal effect.

Lucifer’s cadre of demons share his grotesque taste in attire, and deliver Hell’s wrath on an endless parade of sinners with whippings, beatings and — in the case of Chris Galindo’s pedophilic Bishop — a lethal buggering. Doubling as one of the Demons, Fletcher is artistically savage, while Justin J. Bell’s Demon is supernaturally agile and Mills (uncredited) helps out with a third evilly enthusiastic Demon. Lauren Ashley makes for a beguiling Francesca presiding over the agonies of eternal Lust, while the ensemble does a convincing (and well-choreographed) job of playing the Damned in all their agony.

All in all, devilishly artistic stuff of a mood and atmosphere that you won’t find anywhere else.

Dante’s Inferno runs to Oct. 30 at Crystal City Theatre, 1800 South Bell St., Arlington. Tickets are $35 to $55. Call 800-494-8497 or visit

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