by CHRISTINE SARKES SASSEVILLE
How do you take Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale of The Three Musketeers, which is over 600 pages long, and condense it into fresh version for the stage? Director Amy Rummenie and playwright John Heimbuch of Walking Shadow Theatre Company began by reading the story aloud over the course of several months to distill the complex plot and subplots into a mostly successful re-telling for Guthrie Theatre’s Dowling Studio audiences. Heroes are made, kingdoms are saved, buckles are swashed, and Dumas’ dashing Musketeers prevail with panache. The play succeeds when it focuses on the clever, comedic interplay between the young hero, d’Artagnan (superbly acted by Bryan Porter) and the three musketeers, Athos (Shad Cooper), Porthos (Nate Cheeseman) and Aramis (Ross Destiche) and on the underlying romantic themes.
Full of political intrigue, swordplay, romance and revenge, the play begins as d’Artagnan travels to Paris in hopes of finding his father’s friend Treville (Dan Hopman) and joining the Musketeers, a group of swashbuckling adventurers who serve an unstable King Louis XII (Casey Hoekstra). His wit and fighting ability make d’Artagnan a natural addition to their ranks, and the four young men work together (“All for one and one for all!”) to foil the plots of the King’s slimy and duplicitous advisor, Cardinal Richelieu (Tony Brown). Each Musketeer has his own secrets and agendas further complicating the storytelling. The plot and subplots mostly revolve around war with England and involve Dumas’ ladies: Queen Anne of Austria (Meredith Larson), Constance (Anna Hickey) and the treacherous Milady (Aeysha Kinnunen).
The actors prove their versatility and energy by playing a variety of major and minor roles, many involving impressive fencing and fight choreography (David Schneider). The staging is well executed with good use of the mostly vertical space. The play is less successful when balancing the tonal changes between a serious meditation on the darker aspects of human nature and politics—treachery, murder, deceit, revenge—with the broad comedic scenes throughout. The company acknowledges this difficulty in the director’s notes and also during the play, when the narrator advises skipping through several minor subplots to wrap up the story. Even so, the play runs longer than necessary, in my view.
In the end, the play offers fans of the novels and movies a fun evening of fine acting, impressive swordplay and clever dialogue. As a narrator states early on in the play, “The definition of a hero is one who tries.” The Walking Shadow Theatre Company, its director and playwright, deserve much credit for trying.
The Three Musketeers, a new adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel by John Heimbuch, directed by Amy Rummenie. May 10 – 25 at the Guthrie Theater, 818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis. General Admission Tickets starting at $22 at www.guthrietheater.org or call 612.377.2224 or 1.877.44.STAGE.