Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Maria Simpkins and Pablo Guillen
Photo by Johnny Shryock Photography
Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, is celebrating the holidays with a charming bonbon for the entire family: a rethinking of Cinderella that blends whimsy with a (never preachy) look at what determines the definition of "beautiful" or "charming" in a community. It's also economical, using just six performers and less than an hour to tell the story.

Maria Simpkins is the heart of this production as adapter of the story, director, and lead performer. Her Cinderella is resilient despite the dismissive treatment by her family, in this retelling a vain stepfather (Robert Bowen Smith) and a preening stepsister (Covenant Babatunde). The Prince (Pablo Guillen) is sweet, rather gawky, and unprepared for his royal duties; he has a Valet (unflappable Irene Hamilton) who tries to keep him focused.

The lighter-than-air Synetic touch comes through as Cinderella shows the (incognito) Prince how to wash clothes in a brook, how the Fairy Godmother (Karina Hilleard) commands a group of fireflies to manifest Cinderella's wishes, and how the cast members shift Aleksandr Shiriaev's three-piece scenic design almost effortlessly to create Cinderella's modest home, the golden-walled palace, and the forest where Cinderella remembers her dead mother. Janine Baumgardner, choreographer and assistant director, integrates elements of both ethnic dance and ballroom with the company's expansive (almost magical) physicality, while resident composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze's score borrows from a range of musical traditions.

Cinderella runs through December 26, 2021, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington VA. For ticket information, call 866-811-4111 or visit

Directed and adapted by Maria Simpkins
Choreographed by Janine Baumgardner
Resident Composer: Konstantine Lortkipanidze

Stepsister: Covenant Babatunde
Prince: Pablo Guillen
Valet: Irene Hamilton
Fairy Godmother: Karina Hilleard
Cinderella: Maria Simpkins
Stepfather: Robert Bowen Smith
Understudies: Joshua Cole Lucas, Amber Smithers