We saw "Host and Guest" last night, another energetic production by our local Synetic Theater, recently returned from New York's "Fringe Festival."
The play--actually, more than a play, it is a sort of pantomime or quasi-ballet, with very few words --is based on verses by Georgian poet Vazha Pshavela. The production had a Caucasian feeling, flashes of frightening violence and passion. As the horrifying news arrived from the Russian school hostage crisis, the action on stage seemed particularly poignant, that tragedy is inevitable, which is something we Americans find very difficult to accept.
The story of "Host and Guest" is simple. A Christian and Muslim are deer-hunting in a forest on a mountainside. Rather than kill one another, they shoot the deer and the Mulsim invites the Christian into his home to butcher and share the spoils. This is in keeping with their tradition of hospitality to visitors.
However, the village Imam discovers what is going on and denounces an infidel in their midst, as a killer of their brothers. That night, the guest is dragged out and put to death, his throat slit as a sacrifice, after his host, who had defended his guest, has been thrown off a mountain.
News of the killing reaches the Christian village, who raid the Muslims in a bloody battle that leaves everything destroyed. It is not a happy ending.
Director Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographer Irina Tsikurishivili (his wife) have a gift for dramatic staging and movement. The wild ride by enraged Christian horsemen--staged in pantomime by actors wearing only black leotards--is both cinematic and terrifying. No doubt their experience in the Rustaveli theatre in Tblisi provides some special insight into the Georgian mentality, which they are able to convey even in suburban Washington, DC.
Strange, powerful, affecting, tragic, and sadly relevant to today's headlines, "Host and Guest" is a must-see production. It runs until October 16th, at the Rosslyn Spectrum. Tickets are available online from the Synetic Theater box office.