Arts Listings

The Theater: ‘Three Musketeers’ in Full Swing at Hinkel Park

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday August 07, 2007

You have compromised the honor of a lady!” “And you’ve bastardized an English poet!” With repartee and ripostes, fast dialogue and swordplay, Shotgun Players’ The Three Musketeers, an adaptation by Joanie McBrien (who also directed) with Dave Garrett of the rich Alexandre Dumas epic of the wars of religion in 17th-century France under the sway of Cardinal Richelieu, is in full swing weekend afternoons in John Hinkel Park, for free—and it’s quite a crowd-pleaser.  

The tale of young Gascon (read “Southern country boy”) D’Artagnan, come to the big city to make it as a king’s musketeer, and the incredible web of adventures he’s enwrapped in from his first day in Paris, still makes for a great page-turner—or scene-changer. And the scenes furiously revolve as the stalwart (if wet-behind-the-ears) lad finds himself lined up for three consecutive duels against guess who, only to take sides with them against a kind of ambush by the cardinal’s guards, earning him the eternal comradeship of a troika of off-beat masters of the blade, his surrogate older brothers, and (unwittingly) his key into the intrigues of court and red cap. 

The Players toss off the juicy melodramatic lines with slight tongue-in-cheek somewhat different from Dumas’ stagey irony. The audience takes up where the Players leave off, laughing sarcastically at manners and mores, theatrical turns and turns-of-speech that are more 19th-century Romantic (as interpreted by the adaptors) than 17th-century classicist (or lusty or whatever one conceives the French of that century to be) and displaying an easy skepticism about religion, royalty, chivalry and whatever else seems creaky or preposterous to contemporary enlightenment. It would be curious to see if future generations take our self-serious enlightenment in much the same dismissive way. Even on the page, Dumas’ theatricality was as double-edged as his heroes’ swords. 

The Shotgun cast reels it out with a great deal of exuberance. This is one of the things the company does best, expressing their own enjoyment at making a spectacle.  

There’s a kind of cinematicization of the material; it plays well outdoors, but (like a mini-series) isn’t expansive. It doesn’t burst out of itself only to gather itself back in and burst out again, as the original story and all great episodic and serial fiction do. Still, the swashbuckling is bracing, with whole ensembles erupting at any moment, fencing their way across the sward at the base of the amphitheater, with the able guidance of musketeer and fight director Dave Maier (Athos) and fight captain and choreographer-ensemble member Andrea Weber. 

And the director is to be congratulated for omitting the almost-obligatory dose of fake Gallic kitsch American productions always seem to foster on the French. 

Much of the cast is familiar of face to those who follow Shotgun: the musketeers themselves—Dave Maier as brooding, misogynist Athos, Eric Burns as Porthos the Dandy and Gabe Weiss as Aramis—are longtime Shotgun troupers. Fontana Butterfield, a very familiar company member, almost steals the show as Lady deWinter, with a dose of noirish femme fatale and sleek stage movement. Dan Bruno is fine as that English rake Buckingham, who to be near his secret love, Anne, Queen of France (well-played by Marissa Keltie), would expend the lives of countless Protestant martyrs—“and what of that!”  

Others are return collaborators—notably Meghan Doyle, in a nice turn as D’Artagnan’s damsel-in-distress love interest Constance, and Carla Pantoja, a turncoat lady-in-waiting, charmingly called Kitty, who nonetheless retains a very soft spot for the dashing D’Artagnan. 

D’Artagnan, played with elan by Ryan Montgomery, is very much the ingenu (male version of ingenue), counterpointed by Constance, herself more worldly-wise, who arranges for him to be the courier for the Queen’s diamond necklace, unaware that Milady deWinter is after the self-same stones. Opposite in the spectrum is the totally cynical Cardinal Richelieu, played by Dennis McIntyre like a clerical Ming the Magnificent, evil chortle and all. Carson Creecy IV represents the foppish king, drawing laughter every time he exits with his prissy carriage. 

The show runs seamlessly until the end—and this might be true only for readers of the book, or the Classics Comic book at least—when the truly tear-jerking and spectacular demises, respectively, of Constance and Lady deWinter have been trivialized somewhat into a continuous action-movie stab-and-slash. But the adaptors deserve praise for the clear exposition of the plot, which literally is a plot with many sub-conspiracies and counter-plots. It was amusing to read a review of the show in one of the city papers that praised it for dwelling on lesser-known subtleties of the story. But those “subtleties” are all part of Dumas’ grand design for what’s been accorded the status of a boy’s book. His original story is so jam-packed with incident and detail that there’s no time in a two hour-plus stage adaptation for anything but the resume’ of that grand design itself. 


Ryan Montgomery and Dave Maier in The Three Musketeers.