Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Man in the Iron Mask
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Nicklas Aliff, Shu-nan Chu, Ryan Sellers,
and Ben Cunis

Photo by Johnny Shryock
With its love for muscular physical expression and dynamic drama, Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, is the perfect company to present The Man in the Iron Mask, a follow-up to its earlier production of The Three Musketeers. Swashbuckling men, brave women in peril, and impressive stage movement—what more could an audience want?

Ben and Peter Cunis adapted Alexandre Dumas' novel, which picks up the story of the heroic Musketeers 20 years after their previous adventures. D'Artagnan (Shu-nan Chu) is the only one who remains in the king's service; Athos (Ben Cunis) is a farmer whose son (Will Hayes) wants to join the Musketeers; Porthos (Nicklas Aliff) married and outlived a rich widow and now spends most of his time drinking; and Aramis (Ryan Sellers) has become a bishop with big plans for advancement in the church hierarchy.

The other major change is that Louis XIV (Alex Mills) has ascended to the French throne. Unfortunately, he's a spoiled overage baby who cares only about satisfying his own whims and making himself the center of attention. Louis thinks that no one else knows about his identical twin brother Phillippe (also Mills), a gentle young man trapped in an iron mask and kept in an isolated cell in the Bastille—but, of course, other people at court are about to find out.

As directed by Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili, Mills is the center of the production in his two roles—with expressive facial expressions as well as physical power—but all the featured performers get to show off. Louis is smug, preening as he claims a young man's fiancĂ©e as his mistress and insists on doing his own choreography at a party in his honor (the real "Sun King" was a renowned dancer), while Phillippe has to learn the nuances of court behavior in a very short time.

Other standouts are Sellers, sleek and sure of himself; Chu, tortured by mistakes in his past but determined to prevail; Cunis (also co-fight choreographer with Vato Tsikurishvili), pulled back into a life he had left behind; Aliff, Falstaffian in his bumptious dancing and roughhousing; and Nathan Weinberger, amusing as the snarky courtier Colbert.

Since this is a Synetic production, the physical performances are the motivating force. The four Musketeers earn applause as they gallop forward on (imaginary) horses; the swords fly, courtiers dance and the performers leapfrog, tumble, and battle acrobatically.

Synetic Theater
The Man in the Iron Mask
May 11th - June 19th
Script adaptation by Ben and Peter Cunis based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas
Athos: Ben Cunis
Aramis: Ryan Sellers
Porthos: Nicklas Aliff
D'Artagnan: Shu-nan Chu
King Louis/Phillippe: Alex Mills
Louise: Irina Kavsadze
Queen Anne: Jodi Niehoff
Colbert: Nathan Weinberger
Raoul/Ensemble: Will Hayes
Diego/Ensemble: Peter Pereyra
Foquet/Ensemble: Zana Gankhuyag
Francois/Ensemble: Lee Liebskind
Constance/Ensemble: Lauren Brown
Ensemble: Anna Lane, Tori Bertocci
Director: Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 866-811-4111 or

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