Unforgettable 'Host'; Face to Face with Ethnic Animosity

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Unforgettable 'Host'; Face to Face with Ethnic Animosity


Byline: Jayne Blanchard, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

You may think been there, done that with Host and Guest. However, six years and recent events in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia have only enhanced the intensity and artistry of one of Synetic Theater's signature pieces.

Director Paata Tsikurishvili, a native of Georgia, originally intended to start the fall season with an adaptation of the silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Real horror supplanted the cinematic kind as Russia exercised military might in Georgia during the summer, and Mr. Tsikurishvili, along with his actor and choreographer wife Irina, decided that something that speaks to the legacy of ethnic hatred would be more fitting.

Not that previous incarnations of Host and Guest have been anything but gripping. However, this production has renewed vigor and a stately beauty that just gives you the shivers. Credit company members Ben Cunis and Dan Istrate - playing hunter-warriors who meet by chance in the forest and befriend each other - for infusing graceful swiftness and immediacy to the work. The score, by Konstantine Lortkipanidze, a mix of Georgian folk tunes and original music, also blooms in your brain in a way never felt before.

Host and Guest was adapted in 2002 by Roland Reed from an epic poem by Vazha Pshavela that was written at the turn of the 20th century and has become a classic in the Georgian literary canon. The poem (its synopsis appears in the program, and it's advisable to arrive early enough to read it so you won't get so caught up in the action that you might miss the poem's subtleties) centers on two men, the Muslim Joqola (Mr. Istrate) and the Christian Zviadauri (Mr. Cunis). The two lay down their weapons so they both may get a drink of water, and from that simple act, a tragically short-lived friendship evolves. …

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