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Lab II—Atlas Performing Arts Center

Remaining Performances:

Friday, July 18 at 8 p.m.

Wednesday, July 23 at 6 p.m.

Saturday, July 26 at 7:45 p.m.

They say: A visual adaptation of The Old Man and the Sea is an original work inspired by a personal battle between life and death, showing strength and perseverance.

Caroline’s take: Adapting a well-known story into an entirely new work is a risky endeavor. If even one detail doesn’t come across the way the audience expects, the performer risks losing attention. Fortunately for Hector J. Reynoso, his retelling of Ernest Hemingway‘s The Old Man and the Sea transforms the Pulitzer Prize-winning novella into an impressive feat of physical theater that engages audiences without a word of dialogue.

Reynoso is no stranger to wordless performances. He’s performed with Synetic Theater over the past several years and, oh yeah, he’s also deaf. As a result, he’s an incredible facial actor, conveying every emotion, from joy to devastation to quiet resignation, with a furrowed brow, gaping mouth, or turn of the head. Reynoso embodies Hemingway’s old man so precisely that it feels surprising to see him jump out of the boat and sign his thanks to the audience when the show concludes—he should, you think, look more beaten down but he appears endlessly energetic.

While Reynoso remains at the center of the show, composer Koki Lortkipanidze has created a vivid score incorporating bits of Cuban folk songs as well as recordings of crashing waves. Along with projections by Igor Dmitry, the team creates a visual landscape using only a white background and a simple wooden boat.

In this quick, 30-minute presentation, elements of Hemingway’s story are lost, so the adaptation isn’t entirely exact. But the spirit of the story, of one man triumphing against seemingly insurmountable odds remains, thanks to Reynoso and his impressive array of expressions.

See it if: You want to see some of D.C.’s best physical theater.

Skip it if: You needed Cliffs Notes to understand Hemingway in high school.