Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Madness of Poe
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski and My Lord, What a Night

Alex Mills and Nutsa Tediashvili
Photo by DJ Corey Photography
After more than a year producing works of virtual art, Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, returns to live performance with The Madness of Poe, a chilling and eye-filling work that uses works by Edgar Allan Poe to probe the author's psyche. It includes dialogue, unlike many Synetic productions, but the hyper-physicality of the performers remains dominant.

As directed by Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili, the work fuses imagery from "The Raven" and other Poe writings with a revised version of the company's 2007 adaptation of "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Poe (Ryan Sellers) sits at his desk, trying to write despite a storm of pages flying around him (a clever human-powered effect), when he is visited by both the specter of his lost love Lenore (Megan Khaziran) and a monstrous Raven (Maryam Najafzada, also the associate choreographer). Then Poe receives a letter from Roderick Usher (Alex Mills), inviting him to visit the forbidding mansion Roderick shares with his sister Madeline (Nutsa Tediashvili).

That's when the performance—and the house—fully awakens. Roderick is convinced that the house is alive, and so it seems to be as spirits appear in silhouette behind pivoting glass walls (scenic and properties design by Phil Charlwood, lighting design by Doug Del Pizzo) and sometimes rampage across the stage, dressed in Alexa Duimstra's costumes that suggest both rags and bandages. At times, figures seem to battle gravity, accompanied by a soundtrack (score by Konstantine Lortkipanidze, sound design by Justin Schmitz) that aurally suggests jagged pieces of glass and scratched metal.

Synetic productions always meld visual and performance techniques into a unique whole; in this case, that means that the work of leading performers Sellers, Mills, Tediashvili, and Najafzada merges seamlessly with the shape-shifting members of the ensemble.

The Madness of Poe runs through October 31, 2021, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington, VA 22202. For ticket information, call 866-811-4111 or visit

Adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe by Katherine DuBois and Nathan Weinberger
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili

Scean Aaron: Ensemble
Philip Fletcher: Servant
Aaron Kan: Ensemble
Megan Khaziran: Lenore/Ensemble
Ariel Kraje: Ensemble
Alex Mills: Roderick
Maryam Najafzada: The Raven/Ensemble
Ryan Sellers: Edgar
Nutsa Tediashvili: Madeline