Synetic's dynamic 'Musketeers'

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Entertainment,Barbara Mackay

Playwrights Ben Cunis and Peter Cunis have done an extraordinary job adapting Alexandre Dumas' novel "The Three Musketeers" to the stage at Synetic Theatre. As in the original, it is a sprawling historical saga, a swashbuckling adventure tale, an intense romance and a fascinating drama of political intrigue.

But Synetic doesn't stop there. Using language as well as action, director Paata Tsikurishvili magnifies and intensifies the story, adding elements of the circus, the dance halls of Rio de Janeiro, Western movies and the Keystone Cops. In anyone else's hands, this approach could turn the "Musketeers" into a confusion of discordant styles, but Tsikurishvili keeps the story and themes clear and powerful.

The scene is 17th century Paris during the reign of King Louis XIII (Robert Brown Smith), a weakling controlled by the sinister Cardinal Richelieu (Dan Istrate) and his cruel henchman, Rochefort (Peter Pereyra).

D'Artagnan (Dallas Tolentino) arrives to join the King's personal guard, the Musketeers. The Musketeers have become a drunken carousing throng, their once noble leaders, Athos (Ben Cunis), Porthos (Hector Reynoso) and Aramis (Matthew Ward) routinely attacked by Richelieu's men. But with D'Artagnan's presence, they become great again.

Onstage
'The Three Musketeers'
» Where: Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington
» When: Through June 9
» Info: $35 to $55; 800-494-8497; synetictheater.org

The large ensemble is superb. Tolentino's D'Artagnan is charming in his idealism and determination. Cunis, Reynoso and Ward brilliantly represent three very different personal styles who unite into a grand fighting force.

Istrate is evil personified as Richelieu, his every step measured and controlled. Pereyra skillfully represents a different but equally potent form of evil as the vicious Rochefort. Irina Tsikurishvili adds a touch of mystery as Milady.

Brynn Tucker is a sympathetic figure as the Queen, in love with the Duke of Buckingham (Mitchell Grant). The Queen's unselfish confidant is portrayed winningly by Brittany O'Grady.

This "Musketeers" would not succeed were it not for the talents of two essential company members: Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili, who is responsible for an elegant court ball, a romantic ballet between Milady and Athos and a knockout tango between Milady and Richelieu; and Fight Choreographer Ben Cunis, who coordinates the production's muscular, precision swordplay.

Anastasia Simes' set consists of several sets of stairs around a great, dark central sun-burst. The stairs allow the Musketeers and their enemies platforms for their many high-flying leaps. Simes' costumes are colorful, period-inspired clothes.

Composer/Musical Director Konstantine Lortkipanidze has created a more traditional score than he usually does for Synetic's shows. Although there is plenty of loud music to accompany the fighting and horse-riding, Lortkipanidze also includes a Strauss waltz and, whenever the Queen appears, the gentle strains of Pachelbel's Canon in D.

It takes energy to make Dumas' novel succeed on the stage. Tsikurishvili and his team light it up with their physicality, robust comedy and discipline.

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Author:

Barbara Mackay

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner