A truly swashbuckling staging of The Three Musketeers

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BY JACKIE HOUCHIN

The word that most often describes Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” is swashbuckling, and indeed you’d be hard pressed to find three (no, four) more swaggering, vociferous, impetuous, and confident fellows than his Aramis, Athos, Portos and d’Artagnan; hearty fellows, all, and pledged to the death for each other with their resounding “All for one, and one for all!”

The Theatricum Botanicum has captured the very essence of “swashbuckling” in their current production of “The Three Musketeers” which runs in repertory with four other outstanding plays. The massive outdoor stage, with its surrounding path-riddled, tree covered hillside and vale lends itself well to this play’s bigger-than life action, pageantry and intrigue.

Whether it’s a rowdy tavern brawl, a free-for-all sword fight, a posturing minuet at the Royal Ball, or a clandestine meeting designed for pleasure or plotting evil, the audience is drawn in and carried along by the energy and passion of this remarkable company of performers.

The play begins as d’Artagnan a young, noble-minded peasant with dreams of glory, departs for Paris to seek membership in the famed royal guard of King Louis XIII.

Instead, he finds himself in a tavern where rough men are abusing a pretty laundress. He’s captivated by her beauty and tries to rescue her, only to be thrown to the floor by Rochfort the arrogant captain of the Cardinal’s guard. From his position under the table he sees the captain secretly pass a box and a message to a mysterious woman in black (Abby Craden).

Humiliated, d’Artagnan vows vengeance on Rochfort and starts after him, only to be drawn aside by a trio of Musketeers who wisely advise him to reconsider. However, in his haste to restore his honor, d’Artagnan unwittingly offends each of the Musketeers who then challenge him to private duels.

Bravely the boy meets “the three inseparables” who “undoubtedly will kill me one at a time.” But he proves himself valiant with the sword, and a bond of friendship is formed. Later, when d’Artagnan is brought before the king for “illegal” dueling, the three defend him and take him on as their apprentice.

High adventure follows as together the foursome bravely battle political intrigue, deadly deceit, dastardly doings in the name of religion, and the wiles of one very unscrupulous and wicked woman. With a generous splash of humor to temper the murder and mayhem, this full-version adaptation of Dumas’ play (by director Ellen Geer) is pure entertainment.

Jackson McCord Thompson performs an outstanding d’Artagnan; his youthful, fresh-from-the farm appearance and bumbling ways endearing him to the audience from the start. Jim LeFave’s likable, battered & bruised (and jilted) Athos also wins hearts. Kelly C. Henton impresses as Portos. The bearded and mustachioed Melora Marshall plays the male role of Aramis with surprising machismo. Way to go, girl!

Andrew Ravani captures the narcissistic King Louis XIII in flamboyant yellow and maroon stripes and shoulder length wavy black hair. It’s hard to take your eyes off him, and equally hard not to grin, except of course when he’s killing Protestants!

William Dennis Hunt, as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu, oils his way convincingly through the king’s courts, while handsome Aaron Hendry, as Duke of Buckingham, titillates the audience as the lover of both Queen and vixen in black. Sam Breen exudes formidable menace as the scar-faced Rochfort.

Samara Frame portrays Queen Anne with suitable style and majesty, while Abby Craden easily carries the role of the beautiful and wicked MiLady, whether in inky cloak, gown, or bustiere. Willow Geer plays the comely, good-hearted laundress, Constance, who captures d’Artagnan’s heart and loses her life in the process.

Kudos also go Aaron Hendry as Fight Choreographer and Willow Geer as Dance Choreographer.

Performances are – Fridays at 8:00 pm & Sundays at 7:30 pm through October 3rd. (The final Sunday performance is at 3:30 pm.) Tickets prices – Adults: $32 (lower tier) $20 (upper tier), Seniors, Students, Equity: $20/$15, Children (5-11): $10, Children under 5: Free.

On each of the Fridays in September, there will be a pre-performance French-buffet (attended by costumed swashbucklers and chambermaids) at 6:30 pm. Ticket prices for Friday night performance and buffet: – Adults: $45, Teens (13-18): $35, Children (12 and under): $20.

For tickets and information call (310) 455-3723 or visit www.theatricum.com

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at: 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd Topanga, CA 90290 (Between PCH and Ventura Freeway) Dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating.

Jackie Houchin is a freelance theater reviewer, covering plays, musicals and readings for the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. She also reviews books for several mystery magazines and writes articles for a local biweekly newspaper.  www.jackiehouchin.com

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.