The tone is set immediately at “The Three Musketeers” — which opened tonight at Homestead High School — with an acrobatic sword fight between d’Artagnan and his father.
They run and roll and spin and lunge, steel flying, and it takes a while before we’re sure this isn’t a case of family dysfunction gone horribly wrong.
It isn’t, but it’s clear we’re in for a wild ride.
By a wholly unscientific, possibly low-ball tally, there are 32 battles or acts of violence (slaps, punches, kicks, etc.) in this muscular, comic “Three Musketeers,” played fast and loose with plenty of laughs and pratfalls.
Director Amelia Figg-Franzoi, employs a ridiculous soundtrack to heighten the comedic feel of some of the larger battles here in an entertaining confection, a French bonbon perfect for a fall evening. “The Three Musketeers” is ideal for kids, but not for purists.
Ken Ludwig, who wrote the popular farce “Lend Me a Tenor,” writes contemporary dialogue that can be jarring at times, particularly in a story set in 1625 France. Ludwig introduces a new character, d’Artagnan’s kid sister, Sabine — played with energy to burn by Maisie Allen — who calls her brother “d’Arty” for short.
“Being a girl in the 17th century just isn’t fun,” Sabine declares.
D’Artagnan’s father (Danny Klein) sends his son (the wiry and effective Jack Cannon) into the world with that final workout, an old horse and lots of advice: Stay focused, keep a kind heart, defend the king, protect the queen and don’t openly defy the evil Cardinal Richelieu. And above all, honor; although dad isn’t entirely clear what that means. Oh, and since you’re going to Paris, drop your kid sister off at her convent school.
Once in Paris, d’Artagnan manages to meet and insult each of the musketeers, who challenge him to duels every hour on the hour. Facing certain death at the hands of any one of his three heroes, d’Artagnan gets thoughtful: Some things, he says, are work dying for in an instant, but is this what honor is?
Before long, though, he has won over the swordsmen: The pious Aramis (Leila Mohsenian) has an eye for the ladies; the dandy Porthos (Gwen Cain) isn’t up on her politics; and the wounded Athos, (Silma Berrada) is a fiery fighter with a tortured past.
Every hero needs a nemesis and the musketeers have two: Reem Salah as a snarling Richelieu; and Elizabeth Khomenkov as the devious Countess de Winter, known as Milady. Richelieu is the kind of guy who would poke at his soldier’s wound just to inflict more pain; the first time we see Milady, she knocks out d’Artagnan with a single punch to the face.
The language is so contemporary, one half expects the cunning cardinal to declare: “And I might have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you meddling musketeers.”
There is plenty of comedy.
David Blatz plays a foppish, dim and petulant King Louis XIII of France, with an accent that turns “Duke” into “Deeyook” and “outnumbered” into “outneeyumbered,” a laugh-out-loud choice that makes every line an occasion.
“The Three Musketeers” plays with the form and embraces it: The cardinal’s bumbling henchman Rochefort delivers a monologue about how stupid it is when henchmen monologue, giving the good guys a chance to get the drop on him; this production is shameless with it’s humor; and there is a quest — a necklace to retrieve to stave off war.
The point, however, is at the end of the swords, which get a workout.
This is an action adventure, including a whopper of a battle pitting three musketeers, one d’Artagnan and one kid sister against eight of the evil Cardinal Richelieu’s men.
In the world of musketeers, those odds are just about right.
“The Three Musketeers,” James Barr Performing Arts Center – Homestead High School, 5000 W. Mequon Rd, Mequon WI 53092. Adults $8 – Students $7