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The hot-blooded Rivera of Kiss of the Spiderwoman and West Side Story would’ve felt right at home in Synetic Theater’s exhilarating, deeply sensual Carmen. Staged at once in, and on, a stagewide cage that looks like a spider-webby, neo-expressionist jungle gym, the troupe’s deliriously libidinous version of Prosper Mérimée’s tragic tale of a gypsy seductress and the men she whips into frenzies positively exults in the sort of steamy, passionate movement that was long a Rivera specialty.
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Irina Tsikurishvili’s sultry Carmen, whipping Ben Cunis’ love-struck José with her raven hair, tangling him in bolts of white silk, knocking him back on his heels from halfway across the stage with a thrust of her hip, is a creature straight out of 19th-century erotic fantasies, accessorized for today by designer Anastasia Ryurikov Simes in a mix of latex, leather, and lace. Strapping, muscular Cunis, in a tunic that quickly falls open to the waist—and that is then ripped away entirely to be replaced by…well, you get the drift—is every bit her equal in what Paata Tsikurishvili’s staging treats as a primal, lust-fuelled, love-tempered fable.
A lithe, athletic cast, propelled as they hurtle and weave through the set’s irregularly intersecting metal bars by the fierce flamenco/punk stylings of a three-piece combo perched on high, keeps every minute swooningly, achingly sensual. Hell, even the violinist looks alternately anguished and joyous, as his stage compatriots get battered by feeling and by the blows of the gangbangers and soldiers, bulls and prostitutes who populate a Carmen that is every bit as inventive, as exuberant, and as flat-out sexy as Synetic’s Faust was two seasons ago. Just as unmissable, too.