Review: ‘Treasure Island’ at Synetic Theater

If you’re a fan of swashbuckling pirate tales, you’ll love Synetic Theater’s charming and atmospheric spin on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. Directed by Tori Toletino and adapted by Tori and Dallas Toletino, this play provides the perfect platform to showcase Synetic’s unique gift for movement with epic battles, chase scenes and high seas action.

Photo Credit: Brittany Diliberto | Synetic Theater

The plot follows the young orphan Jane Hawkins—gender-swapped from the original Jim Hawkins of the Stevenson novel—as she joins a crew searching for long lost pirate treasure. Anne Flowers does a fantastic job with the character as she moves nimbly across the stage, runs, jumps and climbs various set pieces acrobatically. Flowers exudes the mannerisms of a waifish orphan who has gotten in over her head.

The cast and ensemble are very much a strong point of this production. Movement Director Dallas Toletino gives the entire crew a thorough workout for this one. I can only describe Synetic’s unique work here as part dance, part gymnastics and part cheerleading routine. The mixture of movements works well and assures that kids and adults alike won’t have a dull moment watching this adaptation.

Photo Credit: Brittany Diliberto | Synetic Theater

All of the leads are phenomenal. Billie Krishawn’s non-nonsense Captain Smollett showcases her talent as a rising star in the D.C. area. A sword fight between Smollett and another character in the latter half of the play provides a chance for her to really lean into the role, revealing the character’s personality in a way that only good acting and good fight choreography can. Chris Daileader excels as the mischievous Long John Silver. His comedic timing could not be better as a jaded pirate, serving up trouble as the main antagonist.

Rounding out the leads are Karina Hilleard as a very prim, very English and very humorous Squire Trelawney and Da’Von T. Moody as the beleaguered Dr. Livesey. These two characters spend quite a bit of their stage time interacting with each other—Hilleard and Moody create a good balance of friendly and antagonistic behavior towards one another.

Scenic Designer Phil Charlwood provides an impressive rotating set piece, mostly utilized as a pirate ship, on which much of the action takes place. Charlwood does a fantastic job not overpowering the space while providing enough nooks and crannies to make the actor’s interaction with the set realistic. One particular feature that stood out was a large slide, which bisects the ship when it is turned a certain direction. Turned sideways, this gave the piece a Donkey Kong-esque feel as Jane Hawkins scrabbled to ascend the slide while being menaced by an ensemble member above.

Lighting Designer Paul Callahan also provides stand-out work for the production. Perfecting the lighting is absolutely crucial when you are trying to evoke taverns, caves and jungles in short order. Much of the successful communication of mood in this particular production can be attributed to Callahan’s skilled contribution. Trickles of light marry with shadows and lightning to add a finishing touch to the overall design.

Photo Credit: Brittany Diliberto | Synetic Theater

Costume Designer Jeanette Christensen also does a fantastic job with the material. Her work allows the actors a full range of movement and adds to the personality of each character on stage. While many pirate shows sometimes have a tendency to look like the actors are wearing a bunch of shredded pillowcases sewn together, Christensen provides the characters with a variety of fabrics and colors—perfect choices to help performers seamlessly interact with set and script.

Synetic Theater provides the DC metro area with a truly unique offering of exciting, movement-based theatre. For those who love pirates and pirate-adjacent things, Treasure Island is one of the best bets for a fun summer production for the whole family.

Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Treasure Island plays through August 18, 2019, at Synetic Theater—1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, VA. Tickets can be purchased online.