In the “Sinetik” theater, the son follows his father’s path


Vato Tsikurishvili vividly remembers the morning of November 30 last year when his father, Synetic Theater founder Paata Tsikurishvili, suffered life-threatening injuries in a multi-vehicle crash on Route 66.

But as Wato, 31, a Crystal City troupe performer, recounts the details of that night — how Paata was behind her when she left rehearsal for Synetic’s “Snow White” in the middle of the night — and how unsettled she was. grew up because his father never returned home—he pauses when he describes the initial image of Paata, bedridden in a Reston hospital.

“Dude, when did I get into that thing? I can’t even,” says Wato. “It was the most surreal experience.”

Wato recalled that the color drained from his father’s face and a large gash on the top of his head left blood stains on his pillow. As Paata passed out, muttering “they took me well” in his native Georgian, the doctor listed Paata’s injuries to Vato and his mother, Irina: a lacerated kidney and spleen, a punctured lung, and five broken vertebrae. many other scraps.

“I just went down and sat on the floor,” says Wato. “And then watching Pops, the tears come. But I know my mother is here, and I can’t get her out. Anyway, I held it together, I think.”

The father was in critical but stable condition for several days, but is now resting at home on his way to a full recovery. But with Paata still months away from working full-time at Synetic, the movement and dance-based company he founded with his wife in 2001, managing director Ben Kunis decided to produce a War of the Worlds production with Paata directing. roll over to next season and replace it with the company’s revival of Beauty and the Beast , which runs through April 2, 2014.

While Kunis directed the original production, a stunning adaptation of the French fairy tale, she enlisted the help of a co-director for this re-edit: Vato, a performer with the troupe since 2007, who in recent years directed Synetic’s Cyrano de Bergerac. and The Servant of Two Masters.

“Vato increasingly put his stamp on Synetic’s shows,” says Kunis. “He directed his performances. He created his creations. He came when he was 16 years old. Now he is a leader and people look up to him.”

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” says Paata, a seasoned mime married to a ballerina, in a Zoom interview. He recalls watching his son Vato Paata perform on stage, duplicating the moves with incredible precision, when his son was a boy in Georgia, before the family immigrated to the United States in 1995 to escape the unrest in the former Soviet state. When the Tsikurishvilis arrived in the DC area, initially performing in restaurants or on street corners, their son found more tricks of the trade.

But Vato spent most of her childhood in Columbus, Ohio — where she lived with her grandfather, Arnold Kvetenadze, then a gymnastics coach at Ohio State — where her parents raised her younger sister, Anna, making Synetic a single child. – a strange institution. Returning as a teenager, Wato quickly realized that his parents were so tired of their jobs that he had to join in on their activities if he wanted to spend time with them. So Wato quit his high school football team and began performing regularly at Synetic’s shows.

“If you ask me what I want to do, I still don’t know,” says Wato. “I just wanted to be with my people. That was all I knew. I never thought of it as a career. I just loved it.”

“Wato was definitely a fish to water,” adds Kunis, who was an artist at Synetic at the time. “He was able to do things that we all struggled to understand.”

Since then, Wato has appeared in more than 30 Synetic productions and won seven Helen Hayes Award nominations as a performer, choreographer and director. At this year’s award ceremony in May, he will compete with his father in the nomination “Best Director”. (“I hope he beats me,” Paata says with a smile. “That’s the goal.”)

The last production Vato starred in was also the most emotionally moving: Snow White, which opened the day after the Paata disaster. Hours before the opening night performance, Vato visited the junkyard where Paata’s Prius had been towed, and he broke down in tears when he saw the mangled metal. After opening what was left of the door, Wato salvaged what he could – his father’s phone, broken glasses, some safes and a flashing laptop – then went to Synetic and took the stage after talking about postponing the show.

“I was a mess,” he says. “But it’s an escape, right? It was a release for everyone.”

With Vato and Kunis briefly co-directing Beauty and the Beast , they admit that a direct remake of the 2014 production in which Vato played the Beast would be the easiest option for all involved. But the duo committed to reimagining Synetic’s dark take on classic gothic romance. Designs were updated, moves were tweaked, and the adaptation was rewritten to focus more on the titular Belle.

Watching rehearsals via Zoom, Paata says he’s been impressed by the cast and crew’s tenacity, and says Kunis has made an effort to run the theater in her absence. But, of course, he’s especially proud of his son, who has followed in his father’s footsteps – just like he did when he was a baby in Georgia.

“He does it with all his heart,” says Paata. “I can tell it’s in his DNA. Talent is one thing, training is another thing, experience is another thing. And he has everything.”

Synetic Theatre, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. 703-824-8060, ext. 117.

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