Synetic Theater’s take on The Three Musketeers has vivid costumes, sexy dance routines and a surprising sense of humor, but it’s the sword fighting that truly dazzles.
Fueled by the fast-paced, intricate fight choreography from star Ben Cunis, the production has the same thrilling sense of adventure that pervades Alexandre Dumas’s classic novel of friendship and intrigue. Musketeers Porthos, Aramis, and Athos, along with their winning apprentice, D’Artagnan, leap toward, roll over, and thrust against their opponents, the guards of the evil Cardinal Richelieu, who’s deviously planning to bring France to war.
All of this action in Paata Tsikurishvili’s production keeps The Three Musketeers, longer than most of the company’s movement-centric productions at two and a half hours, rolling at a satisfying pace. The show has a lot of plot to pack into that time period, including the evolution of D’Artagnan’s dream of becoming a Musketeer, the backstories for each of his noble companions, and the resolution of Cardinal Richelieu’s plotting behind the back of the foppish King Louis XIII (a consistently amusing Robert Bowen Smith). To keep peace in France, the four swordsmen must recover evidence that could implicate Queen Anne (Brynn Tucker) in a love affair, and they’re up against several obstacles in the process, including Milady, an assassin with a mysterious past and a history with Athos.
That history becomes a springboard for several dance and fight scenes between Cunis’s Athos and Irina Tsikurishvili’s tragic Milady. Cunis plays Athos as a drunken man coming apart at the seams before his backstory with Milady is revealed. Their connection is first hinted at during a stunning dream ballet; the pair’s final duet, however, feels like The Three Musketeers’ one unnecessary scene.
Cunis and Tsikurishvili make for a striking pair, but the play’s heart belongs to Dallas Tolentino as the likable and determined D’Artagnan, a brash and open-hearted young man set on joining the King’s guard even as Richelieu (a marvelously devious Dan Istrate) works to make them irrelevant. Tolentino has the right boyish charm and determination for the character, and he still allows the audience to laugh along with his over-the-top confidence and optimism. Also providing comic relief are Hector Reynoso, whose Porthos is short on words but full of lust for life, and Matthew Ward as the womanizing yet pious Aramis, who is always finding himself in one romantic entanglement or another. The production’s comedic sensibilities are a pleasant surprise, but it’s the show’s visual impressions, from the Musketeers’ vigorous pantomimed horse-riding to the looming, blood-red and gold throne of snakes upon which Richeliu perches, that linger the most.
The Three Musketeers runs through June 9 at Synetic Theater. Running time is about two and a half hours, with one intermission. Tickets ($35 to $55) are available via Synetic’s website.