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Theater review: 'The Three Musketeers' at the Theatricum Botanicum

June 18, 2010 |  4:15 pm
400.3 Musketeers_3 Adapter-director Ellen Geer bravely sallies forth into Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” in an extravagantly ambitious world premiere at the Theatricum Botanicum.

The most successful adaptations of Dumas’ popular novel, most notably Richard Lester’s riotous 1973 film, have been exercises in farce and whimsy. The Theatricum production certainly starts out in that spirit, with plenty of roistering, pranks and, of course, nimble swordplay, courtesy of fight choreographer Aaron Hendry, who also does solid service as the Duke of Buckingham.

However, as in her recent adaptation of “Dracula,” Geer lets her source material gallop away with her. The first act, which revolves around the familiar MacGuffin of the Queen’s necklace, is a romp.  The second act, bogged down in an array of prolix plots, is a bit of a slog that takes itself far too seriously. Every scene or so, it seems, a character whips out a letter to read about another brewing crisis. And Geer’s decision to throw in a dolorous musical interlude about the Siege of La Rochelle, replete with embattled Huguenots starved into submission by Royalist forces, is a wrenching departure in tone.

But even though she doesn’t quite master her story, Geer organizes her huge cast with impressive panache.  Young d’Artagnan (comically bombastic Jackson McCord Thompson) finds a ready brotherhood in Athos (Jim LeFave), Portos (Kelly C. Henton), and the cerebral-yet-ferocious Aramis (Melora Marshall, assured in her gender-bending turn.)  However, Abby Craden, initially exquisite as the sensual, scheming Milady, tends to masticate the scenery in her final scenes, at the expense of her fellow actors.

--F. Kathleen Foley

“The Three Musketeers,” The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga.  In repertory through Oct. 3. $20 to $32.  (310) 455-3723. www.theatricum.com.  Running time:  3 hours.

Photo: Jackson McCord Thompson, left, and Kelly C. Henton. Photo credit: Miriam Geer.

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