BWW Review: JOY! WITH MARIA SIMPKINS AND VATO TSIKURISHVILI at Synetic Theater
An Immersive and Exploratory Virtual Storytelling Experience
by Hannah Wing Oct. 21, 2020
We all could use a bit of joy right now. But, where does joy come from? Can you have joy without truth? How can you find joy? These questions (and perhaps many more) are explored in Synetic Theater's JOY!, created and adapted by Chris Rushing. JOY! is split into two virtual shows running in rep: one starring Maria Simpkins and the other starring Vato Tsikurishvili. Synetic's JOY! is an exploratory theater experience, which blends intimate storytelling with audience interaction.
Maria Simpkins Reminds Us that "We Are All Fragile Things..."
Synetic Theater's production of JOY! with Maria Simpkins, directed by Katherine DuBois, is a story about loving oneself, in a time which we all need to be reminded to practice self-love. Maria Simpkins is a remarkable storyteller. She takes the audience through her childhood love of ballroom dancing to landing a role in "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf." While joy is present in Maria's story, shame, abuse, and violation are too. She reflects on body image and being a person of color in a white space. Maria establishes a connection with the audience right from the beginning. By the time she is showing you how to journal and channel moon energy, you feel like you have gotten to know her. She leaves you feeling hopeful and ready to "wreck the system." After all, joy is revolution.
Maria's dancing, choreographed by Katherine Zukeri, paired with her poetry is mesmerizing to watch. Her abilities as a dancer are showcased brilliantly, and it is especially wonderful to witness her channeling her spirit and energy into flamenco.
Synetic Theater's production of JOY! with Vato Tsikurishvili, directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, is a story about knowing where you come from. Vato's story starts in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. In war-torn Georgia, Vato describes being raised by his mother while his father was in Germany and living in a country that was missing essentials. Vato's storytelling really comes to life with his dancing, miming, and especially his facial expressions. At one point in the show, he shifts with ease between different characters during a montage of his performances at Synetic.
Production for Vato's show is a family affair, which makes the show that much more intimate. The show is directed by Vato's father, Paata Tsikurishvili. The choreography, by Paata Tsikurishvili, compliments Vato's story. The production design and imagery, designed by Raymond Simeon with assistance from Ana Tsikurishvili, Vato's sister, adds intensity and enhances thematic elements, especially during a scene in which the red balloons burst from the impact of stray bullets.
The Power of Synetic's JOY!
Both performances of Synetic Theater's JOY! are immersive storytelling experiences that shouldn't be missed. Each performance includes items, which can be found in the Joy Box, that provide an extra bit of joy to the audience's experience and serve as reminders of the power of storytelling.