REVIEW: Exuberant fight scenes, stand-out performances in Synetic’s ‘Three Musketeers.’

The Musketeers and D’Artagnan: Hector Reynoso as Porthos, Dallas Tolentino as D’Artagnan, Ben Cunis as Athos and Matthew Ward as Aramis. (Photo by Johnny Shryock)

The Three Musketeers is one of the most familiar stories in literature and film. There is such a familiarity with the names of the musketeers — Athos, Porthos and Aramis. They are the swashbuckling, carousing swordsmen sworn to protect King Louis XIII. Into this group of delightful reprobates comes the young, idealistic D’Artagnan, who hails from rural Gascony, more than ready to fulfill his dream of becoming a musketeer.

Being part of the antics of the irresponsible trio Alexander Dumas created as they battle — not always successfully — the sinister Cardinal Richelieu in 17th-century Paris has always been fun. The story may be familiar, but the energetic way it is presented in the Synetic Theater production directed by Paata Tsikurishvili is a cross between ballet and the Cirque du Soleil. There is such an exuberant leaping about and tumbling on the stage during the sword fights that there is a real concern that someone will be hurt.

That the wildly, acrobatic swordplay is so breathtaking is a tribute to the skill of fight choreographer Ben Cunis who has a stage filled with clanking rapiers and daggers without anyone getting hurt.

The fight choreography, coupled with the exuberant music of composer/musical director Konstantine Lortkpanidze, completely dominates the competent script written by Ben Cunis and his brother Peter Cunis. The energetic battles and leaping about are so much fun that you find yourself waiting to get through the dialogue so you can enjoy the next fight scene.

The multi-talented Ben Cunis also portrays Athos in a stand-out performance. Dallas Torentino completely understands and adeptly controls the role of D’Artagnan, the naïve country boy seeking musketeer stardom in the big city. The two other musketeers — Matthew Ward as the more austere Aramis and Hector Reynoso as the portly Porthos — dominate the stage. Irini Tsikurishviti is especially sinister as the murderous Milady. Dan Istrate as Richelieu, however, seems more smarmy than sinister and that detracts from his performance.

The Cunis brothers have been respectful of the Dumas classic, but with all the crazy, often silliness of this entirely entertaining production they have added more life to the characters, giving the actors challenging demands just to keep up with Tsikurishvili’s manic production. The creative, respectful relationship between the Cunis brothers and Tsikurishvili is what makes this Synetic production work as well as it does.

“The Three Musketeers” runs through June 9 at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell St., Arlington, VA 22202. $40-$55 at 800-494-8497 and available here.

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