Chicago Theater Review: THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Lifeline Theatre)

by Samantha Nelson on June 10, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

OPULENT PLOT, THRILLING FIGHTING, AND A STUDLY D’ARTAGNAN

While it’s brought to film more than a dozen times, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers is a tough work to adapt. It’s long, has a huge character list, and has as much courtly intrigue as sword fighting. But Robert Kauzlaric, who previously wrote Samantha Nelson's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Lifeline Theatre's THE THREE MUSKETEERS.scripts from other oft-adapted novels The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Picture of Dorian Gray for Lifeline Theatre, strikes the perfect balance in his adaptation, offering the potent mix of buddy comedy, war story, romance, and morality tale that has made the work a classic.

That script is brought to life by the creative choices of director Amanda Delheimer Dimond, who keeps things going even at the tale’s slower points by never having a lull in the action on stage. Characters are constantly skulking about spying on each other or setting up ambushes so that a quiet conversation can suddenly erupt into a fight or a dramatic confrontation, and no time is lost waiting for the scene to change. It’s important to keep things moving since the number of subplots otherwise threaten to bog the story down.

Scenic designer Alan Donahue has created an adult-sized jungle gym on Lifeline’s small stage, offering poles, ladders, ramps and two levels that the actors utilize in outrageous feats of acrobatics and stage fighting (the exhilarating swashbuckling is beautifully constructed by fight choreographer Matt Hawkins). Yet the strange equipment is subtle enough that it Samantha Nelson's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Lifeline Theatre's THE THREE MUSKETEERS.doesn’t get in the way of the set becoming a tavern, a palace bedroom, or an isolated convent.

That spectacle is a lot of fun, but the play is anchored by Glenn Stanton’s D’Artagnan. The country boy who comes to Paris dreaming of joining the renowned Musketeers is endearing throughout his transformation from a temperamental kid willing to provoke duels over the smallest slight to a love struck soldier and eventually a wily hero. His striking good looks add to his appeal (he was the talk of the ladies’ bathroom during intermission) and Dimond is all too happy to use that to her advantage, constructing multiple excuses for Stanton to take off his shirt.

Samantha Nelson's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Lifeline Theatre's THE THREE MUSKETEERS.Chris Hainsworth, Dwight Sora, and Christopher M. Walsh are all excellent as the titular musketeers, especially Hainsworth’s tortured portrayal of Athos. But the best acting is done by Katie McLean as Milady de Winter. She’s such a perfect villainess, beautifully manipulating even the most loyal and noble characters around her and the audience in turn. It’s hard not to feel bad for her when she’s punished, even though she really, really deserves it.

While the supporting cast is mostly strong, Miguel Nunez is a weak link. His distinctive voice is perfect for the pompous King Louis XIII but he can’t alter it enough to slip into the character of Lord Buckingham, which makes it hard to view the romantic rivals as separate characters. Another flaw in the show comes from Aly Renee Amidei’s costumes. The French nobility and clergy dress in period garb while the British wear simple suits. The anachronism works for the soldiers, who dress in bright-colored T-shirts, berets and — in the case of the musketeers — jackets with convenient nametags; it manifests the idea of a uniform and helps distinguish between sides. But for the British nobles, it just makes them seem unimportant.

Fortunately those are just minor distractions and it’s easy to ignore them when your attention is called back to the rich plot and spectacular fights.

Samantha Nelson's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Lifeline Theatre's THE THREE MUSKETEERS.

photos by Suzanne Plunkett

The Three Musketeers
Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
scheduled to end on July 21, 2013
for tickets, call 773-761-4477 or visit http://www.lifelinetheatre.com

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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