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Host and Guest, based on a poem by Georgian yeoman poet Vazha Pshavela (1861-1915), is a dark, simple story with a setting to match. While out hunting, two strangers find themselves in a position of confrontation, gun to gun. After Joqola (Paata Tsikurishvili), a Muslim, observes, “I don’t trust a man pointing his rifle at me. Do you?” he and the Christian Zviadauri (Irakli Kavsadze) come to a truce—initially wary, but soon friendly after Joqola invites Zviadauri back to his home to share the spoils of the hunt. But Joqola’s invitation has awful reverberations when his neighbors in the village of Jarega find out. The villagers, in particular Musa (Kakhi Kavsadze), are outraged by Joqola’s choice: Christians are the enemy; therefore Zviadauri deserves no courtesy. But Joqola is equally true to a seemingly conflicting cultural norm that one must be gracious to guests—citing a saying that “the guest will be the last to die.” Death indeed follows soon, for several characters, along with imprisonment, grief, and war. The Synetic Theater’s staging of Roland Reed’s adaptation of the poem has little humor but is lightened by the brave idealism of Joqola and his wife, Aghaza (Irina Tsikurishvili)—and by visuals that are never short of stunning. There are few props, save sticks—and although Colin Bills’ lighting and Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili’s black-cloth-and-scaffolding set design and dark, monochromatic costumes heighten the drama, the crowning contribution comes from the husband-and-wife Tsikurishvilis: director/actor Paata and choreographer/actor Irina. With the help of their artistry, the graceful, intensely focused troupe transforms itself from warriors into stones, from trees into villagers, through bold but nuanced movement. Synetic’s sort of expressionism—pale, kohl-eyed actors; a leotard-clad dancer with fingers on her head portraying a stag—could easily become murky or laughable, but there’s not a single mime-is-money moment in Host and Guest. Not being able to read Georgian, I can’t speak for Pshavela’s original poem, but this production’s abundant lyricism transcends language. It’s unceasingly beautiful. —Pamela Murray Winters