Aramis, D’Artagnan, Athos and Porthos celebrate another victory. Credit: R.R. Jones
A bravura romp through the adventures of Dumas' deathless heroes, The Three Musketeers
brings rapier wit, lusty performances and an enduring band of comrades to the Shakespeare Santa Cruz redwood glen.
The fast-moving saga of courage, conspiracy and camaraderie is directed with panache by Art Manke (who directed Bach at Leibzig
for SSC's 2008 season). Outdoing even his past celebration of Baroque wit and rivalry, Manke offers us a cocksure blaze of action loaded with impeccable delivery, intelligibility and scene changes so seamless they might have been devised by an omniscient cinematographer.
At just under two and a half hours (including intermission!), this astute choice for the Festival's 30th anniversary season soars briskly, plunging the audience immediately—and impeccably, thanks to costuming magic by B. Modern—into the intrigue-drenched court of Louis XIII and his much smarter political advisor Cardinal Richelieu. As the spoiled fashion-conscious monarch, Charles Pasternak steals every moment possible. He drips nuance, and it is worth a king's ransom just to hear him threaten a rival with the "ba-ba-ba-Bastille!" As the longsuffering Queen Anne, Lenne Klingaman is the picture of distraught opulence.
The entire cast is costumed with Baroque precision, providing glittering and historically accurate snapshots of fashion excess and amazing hairdos. Modern equips the men with sexy leather doublets, billowing shirtsleeves and seven-league boots, with tightly corseted brocades and jewels for the royal women. Lavish hair and wig design by Jakey Hicks and Jessica Carter completes the illusion of a 17th-century field trip to Fontainebleau. Not since the Summer of Love have so many men sported such long locks so handsomely.
This rousing adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' 19th-century popular romance was written by Linda Alper, Douglas Langworthy and Penny Metropulos and originally commissioned for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Condensed into a tight dramatic whirlwind, this play proves a vibrant vehicle for swordplay and duplicitous mayhem. The three musketeers—Athos (Allen Gilmore), Porthos (Kit Wilder) and Aramis (J. Todd Adams)—immediately embrace into their midst young D'Artagnan (Leigh Miller), a Gascon fresh from the sticks who comes to Paris to seek his fortune. These four are physically and temperamentally so well matched that the play could run on their chemistry alone. As the brave and principled young swordsman, D'Artagnan quickly learns of love, death and the politics of greed as he rushes to aid the Queen of France, whose affair with the British Duke of Buckingham (Erik Heger) has been sabotaged by the villainous Cardinal Richelieu (Richard Ziman). The well-known tale has never been in better hands as this cast tears into the criss-crossing plot full of pliant countesses, drunken brawls and astonishing swordplay.
And it all takes place with almost invisible changes of scene, moving of set furniture and heightening of mood. Whenever a sword fight erupts, the music swells into a soaring backdrop for the lusty action. It's a perfect device that helps 21st-century audiences believe every moment of the gracefully staged combat. Also perfect—in addition to Pasternak's fetching vision of Louis XIII in red pumps—is Kit Wilder as the boasting, big-hearted dandy Porthos. The adroit Craig Heidenreich turns his small but crucial role as devious Count de Rochefort into a glossary of stagecraft. There simply is no flab, no dullness, no hesitation: it is a tale told by complete professionals, full of swash and buckle and miles of romantic charm. Thank God for a production that sets aside social subtext, that leaps over political posturing and instead makes a convincing argument for the timeless and transcendent glories of live theater.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Through Aug. 28
Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen, UCSC