The Two Musketeers
Adapted by Jon Jory from the novel by Alexander Dumas
Directed by Juergen K. Tossmann
Reviewed by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
In recent years, Jon Jory has gained a reputation for his brisk adaptions of literary classics such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, both seen by Louisville audiences at Actors Theatre. They were freewheeling in their narrative design but also literate and loyal to the source material.
So this comparatively lowbrow version of the Alexander Dumas novel comes as something of a surprise. Not that the script isn’t smart, but the approach here is reminiscent of the cheeky tone and deconstructive attitude of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) and the other entries in that series. Time and action are elastic, with great dollops of self-awareness and a liberal breaking of the fourth wall. Porthos is killed off right away due, hypothetically, to the need to reduce the cast because of budget concerns, thus the change of title.
Otherwise, the plot of The Three Musketeers provides the story, even though departures are frequent and subversive in their intention. Costumes are simple and kitschy, with Musketeers being identified by Kansas City Royals baseball caps worn backwards and the Cardinal’s Guards by, of course, St. Louis Cardinals caps, a motif extended to Cardinal Richelieu himself adorned with a St. Louis Cardinals warm-up jacket/cloak.
Each member of the ensemble plays multiple roles, and the usual business is made of quick-change tomfoolery and, in truth, much of the slapstick humor is well worn and familiar, so that there are few true surprises in store. The actors make the most of the opportunity for silliness, and Jeremy Sapp wins top honors for his Man in Black/Rochefort, complete with accent worthy of Monty Python. Neil Brewer manages an Athos that doesn’t entirely jettison the gravity of his past for humorous effect, and Scott Goodman well wears the St. Louis mantel of Cardinal Richelieu. I could watch these three guys do this all day. Brandon Jones is a new face, but he handles himself fairly well as D’Artagnon. Allison Collins brings a note of glamour to the buffoonery as Milady, and Virginia Pollock is a confident comic presence, especially in her overtly feline characterization of Kitty.
Yet despite that confidence and evident pleasure among the players, the production cannot help but fall short of its potential. It never reaches the giddy heights the material demands, and resides in the zone of moderation that keeps edginess and challenge at bay. With a little more time, this cast might rise to a different level, but they weren’t quite there opening night.
Mr. Jory’s script was as much a satire on the trend of slapdash cultural adaptation as an un-ironic entry in that sub-genre. This artist’s reputation precedes him with enough history to disallow any assumptions of slumming. Still, it doesn’t live in the same neighborhood as his long and celebrated body of work as a writer, even if we can welcome an irreverent take on a Dumas novel that is already a fairly knowing and boisterous comic-adventure.
The Two Musketeers
October 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 pm
October 18 and 25 at 2:30 pm
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.