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The Three Musketeers -07/10/2000

By Eberle Thomas and Barbara Redmond. Adapted from “Les Trois Mousquetaires” by Alexandre Dumas. Cast includes: Tandy Cronyn, Michael Burns, David Kortemeier, Thomas Anthony Quinn, Zachary Fischer, Walter Brody, Rebecca MacLean, Kathleen Logelin, Bradley White, Jonathan Awori, Christopher Denham, Jimmie Galaites, Steven Young, Harris Smith, Paul Erwin, Joe Thompson. Director: Brant Pope. Costume Designer: Dan Wilhelm. Scenic Designer: John Stark. Lighting Designer: J. William Ruyle. Sound Designer: Aaron Paolucci.

Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

In repertory through August 11. Ewing Manor, Bloomington, and Westhoff Theatre, Normal. Box office: (309) 438-2535.


“The Three Musketeers” is one of the most popular stories around.

Full of adventure, passion, historical intrigue and all kinds of swashbuckling, Alexandre Dumas’s tale of Louis XIII’s daring guardsmen has survived all sorts of interpretations. Over the years, actors from singer Don Ameche to dancer Gene Kelly, from heartthrob Michael York to pink-cheeked Chris O’Donnell have sallied forth as D’Artagnan, the brash young Gascon who wants to join the Musketeers.

Still, it’s a tough prospect for the stage, mostly because of the size of the tableau.
There are plots, subplots and counterplots involving people from the highest levels of power to the lowest, deceptions and machinations, love affairs and murders, evil villains, dashing heroes, missing diamonds, a branded woman, pomp and ceremony.
How do you fit all those plot strands into a few hours, keep enough of the signature swordplay to satisfy its fans, and still have time to bring to life the larger-than-life, captivating characters of the Dumas novel?

It isn’t easy.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival chooses an adaptation by Eberle Thomas and Barbara Redmond, directed with good energy by Brant Pope.

Pope is somewhat hampered by Thomas and Redmond’s version of “The Three Musketeers,” complete with a strange prologue that contributes to the muddy story arc and collapsed subplots. The script’s biggest problem, however, is a lack of attention to individual characters, generally ignoring even the Musketeers themselves.

Not surprisingly, the characters with the most stage time fare the best. Tandy Cronyn commands the spotlight as she etches a sharp, stinging portrait of Milady, the epitome of the femme fatale, while Michael Burns shows the right reckless charm for boyish D’Artagnan.

The actual Three Musketeers -- dark, tortured Athos, blustery Porthos and elegant Aramis -- get good performances from David Kortemeier, Thomas Anthony Quinn and Zachary Fischer, but they’re working with very little material.

Others of note in the cast include Roderick Peeples, who makes a diabolical Cardinal; Walter Brody, offering fine performances in two contrasting roles; Bradley White, catching the eye as the preening King; and Harris Smith, with a romantic, dishy take on Buckingham, the would-be lover of the Queen.

Fight director Paul Dennhardt’s contributions keep the swords crashing and flashing to good effect, and Dan Wilhem’s costume design is splashy and rich enough to evoke the right Cavalier mood.

In contast, John Stark’s set design seems a bit, well, stark, with the tall, austere backdrop of the new theater at Ewing Manor overwhelming the action.

As a bit of a Musketeer fan dating back to my high school French classes, I can say that the Thomas-Redmond version is not my favorite take on the adventures of Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan. It’s a little dry and meanders more than it should.

But the heart of the Musketeers is still there, beating strong in the sultry summer heat. When you hear, “All for one and one for all!” who can resist?

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