Ken Ludwig — best known for farces Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo — adapts Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 novel. Set in 1625 France, it’s a story familiar from hundreds of stage and screen versions. Ludwig’s jokey script is written like an action film: brief scenes provide exposition (including a montague recap to start Act II) and character development gets reduced to shorthand to make way for fights.
And what fights! Fight Director Christopher Elst, an acclaimed fight director stage the show’s 10 spectacular swordfights. Some include as many as 12 simultaneous combatants, plus the rest of the violence perpetrated through punches, kicks, head blows, choking, stabbing, shooting, grappling, and poisoning. It’s all accomplished by a game-for-anything cast who never falter on the imposing, set of wooden platforms and stair, beautifully lit by Betsy Bowen. Sophia Zhang’s sumptuous period costumes contain a leathery hint of Game of Thrones. Just like a cheesy action movie, some fights are enhanced with music (from the 80’s and 90’s) and they’re exhilarating, not brutal.
Jack Cannon plays D’Artagnan, the impetuous young man who wants to join the legendary trio of do-gooders, played by Gwen Cain(Porthos), Silma Berrara (Athos), and Leila Mohsenian (Aramis). They excel beyond the script’s broad characterizations with sincere, witty performances. Ludwig updates the story by adding D’Artagnan’s sister Sabine (Maisie Allen), who’s his swordfighting equal but also a young lady. “Being a girl in the 17th century is not much fun,” she says. Reem Salah makes a deliciously evil Cardinal Richelieu, served by Elizabeth Khomenkov’s stealthy Milady and Sam McWilliams’ hapless Rochefort. LOUIS XIII IS NOT as famous as his son Louis XIV (the Sun King) or his descendant Louis XVI (guillotine, Marie Antoinette), but he was quite a character in his day (1601-43). And David Blatz makes him the comic star of Homestead High School’s fun-filled production of “The Three Musketeers.”
Don’t think too much about the ethical problems in that plot point. Even serious thoughts, like Athos’s sentiment that “Love leads to death, darkness, and the end of hope,” are punchlines — and, just as in any good action movie, there’s no time between fights to ponder. Ludwig connects the plot’s many points in an ending crescendo punctuated with an instrumental version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” and — like all good action movies — even sets up a sequel.
While The Three Musketeers has Shakespearean proportions, no one will confuse Ludwig’s script with anything written by the Bard. That’s made obvious when, in the opening scene, D’Artagnan’s father (Danny Klein intones, “It takes courage to be yourself,” as exposition is provided by the shovelful.