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|July 24-30, 2008
Brotherhood of the sword
Dumas subs admirably for the Bard
by Gary Zeidner
Now in its 50th year, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival continues to evolve. This year, CSF has Shakespeare sharing the stage with two works by other playwrights, Woody Guthrie’s American Song and The Three Musketeers. Though purists might bemoan the presence of plays by anyone other than the Bard in a festival named after him, I believe most people will appreciate the opportunity to experience great plays put on by outstanding casts and crews regardless of their author.
As my friends and I entered the Mary Rippon Theatre for the preview of The Three Musketeers, I was struck as I am every year by what an amazing performance space it is. Sitting outdoors as the light of day bled into purple night and a breeze played across the crowd, I couldn’t think of a better theater in which to take in The Three Musketeers. The fact that the CSF has also changed out those old, blue, less-than-comfortable seat backs that one used to have to rent for fully padded, significantly-more-comfortable versions that are gratis only further increases the theater’s appeal.
The Three Musketeers is really a bit of a misnomer. Certainly, the play opens with the three eponymous members of the King’s elite guard, Porthos (Gary Wright), Athos (Stephen Weitz) and Aramis (Geoffrey Kent), functioning as a triumvirate, but it only takes a handful of scenes to add to their trio a fourth member, d’Artagnan (Mat Hostetler). From that moment on, The Three Musketeers is really about this quartet fighting together bravely in the name of the King.
Though The Three Musketeers centers around the young d’Artagnan, all four leads must excel for it to succeed. Happily, Director Carolyn Howarth’s leads all come through giving grand yet not outsized performances. Wright gives us a Porthos who, though a bit of a braggart, stands steadfast by his brothers in arms. Weitz plays Athos as a straight arrow proud beyond measure to serve his King. Kent, who is also the fight director for the play, hits the perfect balance of lover and fighter with Aramis (the only musketeer to inspire his own cologne if I’m not mistaken). And Hostetler’s d’Artagnan exudes such energy that it is impossible not to root for him from his first scene until his final bow.
As I mentioned above, Geoffrey Kent pulls double duty as he acts in and directs the fights for The Three Musketeers. (Technically, he’s pulling quadruple duty seeing as how he also directs the fights for and plays Macduff in Macbeth, but I digress.) Kent, who has been directing fights for theatrical productions around the Denver area for years, knows his swordplay, and his efforts are painted in Dayglo colors all over The Three Musketeers. Porthos, Athos, Aramis and d’Artagnan find themselves on multiple occasions dashing back and forth and on and off the stage as they take on dozens of opponents. The amount of planning and work that had to have gone into making these melees both credible and fun is staggering and well worth it. I have never seen so many well-executed sword fights in one play at the CSF, or for that matter, anywhere else. Well done, Mr. Kent.
Where many plays at the CSF choose to go avant garde and muck about with setting, both geographically and temporally, Howarth keeps The Three Musketeers in its own time. The costuming and the set itself, a classic multi-leveled affair, fit with at least my perception of France in 1625. The only significant tweak Howarth makes is to include modern music — predominantly during scene changes. Copious Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and even a disco tune bring the play into the present day and give The Three Musketeers a vibe very similar to the 1996 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s own Romeo and Juliet.
On the Bill:
The Three Musketeers plays through August 13 at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival on CU’s Boulder campus. Tickets are $7-$54. For tickets or information, call 303-492-0554, or visit www.coloradoshakes.org.
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