Friday, October 20, 2017

The Three Musketeers Reimagined

What did I say about The Three Musketeers the book? That is was simply fun and entertaining? Well, that's exactly what Southwest Shakespeare's production of The Three Musketeers was. A solid piece of fun entertainment.

I will begin with a couple of comments on the adaptation. This play was written in in 2006 by Ken Ludwig, who wanted to capture the spirit of the book rather than each plot element. He absolutely did so, going off of seeing this particular production. It's a long book that can ramble a bit at times and you have to kind of just go along with the rambling and enjoy each scene on its own because it takes a while for the plot to really even form. The play, while still following the main scene of the book, has more of a plot to keep the audience's attention and to keep the pacing quicker. I mentioned before that there are politics and history to the book, but they're not really the main core of it; the play addressed this wonderfully by having the Musketeers always needing to remind one another of what the political situation is.

What I had more trouble accepting than any subtractions, though, was the addition of Sabine, d'Artagnan's sister. Presumably she's there because the main characters are mostly men--but when there are such good characters in Constance and Milady, I don't know that we really needed another female character. It's true, though, that I think she serves another purpose than just adding in a female element: she's there to help set the tone. When she shows up, one of the Musketeers asks a question to the effect of, "What's going on?" It's the same thing the audience wonders: why does d'Artagnan have a sister? Why? Because it's random and silly and unexpected and doesn't really make sense. Throwing Sabine in there and setting d'Artagnan up as a little goofier than I read him in the book, the audience knows right away that they're here to have fun and be entertained. Sabine almost even feels like an element of parody--except that adding humor into this story isn't making it into parody because The Three Musketeers is already so entertaining and often humorous. So while I'm still not completely on board with the addition of Sabine (or with that goofy angle for d'Artagnan), I do see how she helped set that tone for the play. And honestly, she didn't really detract from anything, either.

Now on to how the cast and the production team brought to life this play, directed by Jesse James Kamps. There were some familiar faces. In particular, I remember Andy Cahoon (d'Artagnan) most as Laertes in Hamlet, Melody Knudson (Constance) as Ophelia in the same production, and Alexis Baigue (Cardinal Richelieu) from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) last month. From the personal perspective, it's exciting to start to recognize actors and see how they approach different roles; you start to get a sense of their individual talents and what they in particular can bring to a character.

Probably all of the Musketeers (Aaron Blanco as Aramis, Spencer Dooley as Athos, and Keath Hall as Porthos) and Cardinal Richelieu were my favorites in the play. They really brought that sense of vanity, coolness, carelessness, and love of dueling that forms the Musketeers and their enemies (well, the Cardinal isn't always cool--usually he's just "the bad guy," but he was a delight to watch here). In fact, everyone in the play was well cast, and this was a fairly big cast at sixteen people.

They also worked well together, particularly in the big group scenes, whether at the ball or in the many fighting scenes. That fight choreography (also by Aaron Blanco)--it completely captured that sense of fun that's in the book. You would be watching them on stage, switching to this focus to that focus, this angle to that angle, and you'd be thinking, how are they being so silly? Such a particular lighthearted humor that went through the scenes.

Given that this is simply a hugely entertaining play to watch, it's a great introduction piece to live performance and also a good play to see if you don't make it out to very many. It's easy to watch and understand and the pace is quick and all of the scenes will set you smiling. I didn't really know what to expect from this one, but I ended up having a wonderful time. The play is running until the 28th, so there is still time to make it over.

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