The Three Musketeers, as performed by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company-in-the-Ruins receives a spirited and entertaining outdoor staging that will please many family members, although the adaptation and the acting are too broad to be fully satisfying.
Most audience members will be familiar with the classic story of d’Artagnan, the rural lad who heads to Paris hoping to find adventure by joining King’s Musketeers. Once there he befriends three musketeers (Porthos, Aramis, and Athos), and quickly gets drawn into serving the Queen against the plotting of Cardinal Richelieu and his minions, including the treacherous spy Milady de Winter. He also falls in love with one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting, the lovely Constance.
It’s a rollicking tale full of adventure, swordfight, romance, and intrigue, and the 16 member cast embraces it enthusiastically. Many actors perform multiple roles, but none coming close to the burden imposed upon company member Keegan Cassady. His primary role is Planchet, the story’s narrator and d’Artagnan’s servant, but he plays several other characters with great charm and joie de vivre. His skilled and amusing portrayals are a highlight of the production.
Other highlights include the group of musketeers. Brendan Edward Kennedy makes a fine heartthrob of a hero as a d’Artagnan full of pride and longing. He also pulled off a great ad lib at the reviewed performance when a child’s response to a kissing scene was a loud “Ewww.”
Daniel Flint practically roars as Porthos, the most vocal and heaviest drinker of the group. Kevin Alan Brown brings a quiet spirituality to the role of Athos, the would-be priest. Gerrad Alex Taylor brings a convincing amount of cynicism and regret to the key role of Aramis.
Other standouts in the cast include Courtney Feiman, who finds a way to make Constance more modern and outgoing while still convincingly romantic. Eric Poch is also appealing in multiple roles, especially as Constance’s husband Bonacieux.
Planchet’s narration is just one technique for keeping the story moving at a swift pace. The stagehands should also be credited, often coming in to clear one side of the stage while action proceeds on the other.
While the forward momentum of this adaptation is admirable, in many respects the John Chambers’ adaptation is the show’s greatest weakness. It seems designed to appeal to the broadest of possible audiences. By trying to thread the needle between a family production accessible to younger audiences and a more classic and sophisticated adaption, Chambers misses the mark with a version that is neither fish nor fowl. The adaptation is long enough that many younger children got restless, yet lends itself to extravagant and exaggerated performances that many adults will find lacking in sophistication.
The broad style of the adaptation works most effectively in the humor of the story, and the directors have found many clever ways to wring every possible laugh out of the work. Examples? A newly inserted Brexit joke and a pond which overreacts to the occasional spitting incident.
The Three Musketeers
closes July 24, 2016
Details and tickets
On the other hand, the adaptation particularly undercuts the level of plotting and intrigue, making Cardinal Richelieu almost cartoonish in his villainy. It sacrifices the drama and character development in an attempt to boost the humor and the adventure.
If you are a fan of swashbucklers, the amount of fencing and other combat is abundant but rarely inspired. One exception was a faster and more compelling sword fight late in act one involving d’Artagnan and a French count played by Stephen Lopez.
The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s production of The Three Musketeers makes for a nice family outing and a decent introduction to theatre for younger audiences. However, in terms of adaptation and performance, this production is a far cry from the company’s outdoor Cyrano de Bergerac a few seasons back.
However, there are other charms to the evening, in case you are weighing the decision of whether to make the drive to Ellicott City and the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park for The Three Musketeers. The park lends itself to picnicking and makes for a memorable visit. The cast members sing some classic popular songs before the show and during intermission, and are very generous in interacting with the audience after the show ends.
Note: The combat, including the use of loud pistols, should not be upsetting to most children. Some parents might also want to know that some variant of the word “damn” is used about a half dozen times in the production.
The Three Musketeers based upon the novel by Alexandre Dumas and adapted for the stage by John Chambers. Directed by Ian Gallanar and Patrick Kilpatrick. Featuring Lida Maria Benson, Kevin Alan Brown, Keegan Cassady, Jordan Dallam, Courtney Feiman, Daniel Flint, Brendan Edward Kennedy, Willem Krumich, Ceili Lang, Stephen Lopez, Molly Moores, Frank B. Moorman, Javier del Pilar, Eric Poch, Michael Reid, and Gerrad Alex Taylor. Set and Lighting Design: Daniel O’Brien. Costume Design: Kristina Lambdin and Heather C. Jackson. Fight Choreographer: James Jager . Stage Manager: Hannah Fogler. Presented by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company-in-the-Ruins . Reviewed by Steven McKnight.