Theater Review: ‘All for one’ in ‘The Three Musketeers’ at PSF
“The Three Musketeers” mantra of “All for one, and one for all” sums up the sword-wielding comedy-drama at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (PSF), through Aug. 6, Main Stage, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, DeSales University, Center Valley.
The show’s full title, “Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers Adapted From The Novel by Alexandre Dumas,” underscores the “one for all” approach to the material, staging, acting and direction. The July 12 opening night performance of “The Three Musketeers” was seen for this review.
Ludwig takes an action-film approach, whereby catch phrases (for example: Clint Eastwood: “Go ahead, make my Day” from “Sudden Impact,” 1983; Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.” from “The Terminator,” 1984) are interjected to provide authoritative, albeit comedic, release from tense dramatic moments. It’s a time immemorial stage and screen device, including movie versions of “The Three Musketeers,” notably the 1948 MGM release starring an exuberant and athletic Gene Kelly as D’Artagnan.
As an example in the PSF production, much sport is made of a silly hat worn by D’Artagnan. “That’s not a hat. That’s a cry for help,” it’s stated.
The jokey sentiments undercut the noble intent of the Musketeers: Porthos (Zack Robidas), Aramis (Alexander Sovronsky) and Athos (Ian Merrill Peakes, whose monologue is stunning), joined by the eager D’Artagnan (Sean Patrick Higgins) and his tag-along sister, Sabine (Stephanie Hodge), as well as the serious threat of the ostensible villain, none other than Cardinal Richelieu (Paul Kiernan), the treachery of Milady (Stella Baker), the indecisiveness of Queen Anne (Marnie Schulenburg) and the gleefully flamboyant King Louis XIII (Dan Hodge, who most successfully balances the script’s serious-silly sentiments).
The 13-member-lead cast is rounded out by Constance Bonacieux (Kelsey Rainwater), Rochefort (John Keabler), Treville (Esau Pritchett, whose voice is astounding), and Buckingham (Mike Rossmy). There’s also a six-member ensemble.
Add to this, frequent scenes of clanging swords, which seemed realistic enough, busy enough and with too many actors to mention, as to be wince-inducing, though, of course, that’s the idea since they are choreographed to precision by Fight Director Christian Kelly-Sordelet, and the playing of guitar, ukulele and violin instrumentals and choral singing by the cast as created by Composer-Music Director-Sound Designer Sovronsky, and you’ve got a lot going on.
The post-modernism of the production is symbolized by an abstract barn-like wooden beam set backdropped by large diamond shapes by Scenic Designer Brian Sidney Bembridge and Lighting Designer Masha Tsimring, even as the costumes by Costume Designer Samantha Fleming, and especially the sumptuous and stunning women’s gowns, lean toward realism circa 1625 France and England.
Director Rick Sordelet, as he did with the 2010 PSF “Romeo and Juliet” that he directed, throws in a contemporary song (here, the instrumental fanfare opening of The Jackson 5’s 1969 dance pop hit, “I Want You Back”) and the PSF production of “The Three Musketeers” indeed is literally “All for one, and one for all.”
There’s more swordplay, more quips than you can remember, and more entertainment value for your ticket price than you can shake a sword at in the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival production of “The Thee Musketeers.”
Tickets: pashakespeare.org, 610-282-WILL (9455), ext. 1