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A CurtainUp Phildelphia Review
The Three Musketeers
I will not insult your majesty with candor.— Cardinal Richelieu
Musketeers vs the Cardinal's Guard (Photo: Quintessence Theatre)
The Three Musketeers or Le Complot Des Diamants, in World Premiere at Quintessence Theatre, is introduced by Alexandre Dumas in the person of charming Anita Holland. It is most fitting that M. Dumas be played by a person of color, as he was himself a person of color whose grandmother had been a slave in San Domingo (Haiti). His prologue sets up the lively tale of the brave deeds and derring-do of young d'Artagnan and the three Musketeers, poised between the dangerous scheming of Cardinal Richelieu and his agents, and King Louis XIII, Queen Anne and the Duke of Buckingham.

The action transpires on a low, square wooden platform edged with footlights. The audience sits close by, on all four sides. Bold swordsmen and adventurers swagger across the stage, and the dangerous flashing of steel and clashing clamor of all-out sword fights is apt to break out at the least provocation. Ian Rose's fight direction has produced robust and credible work with the rapier as the King's men engage the Cardinal's guards. Halberds, stilettos and pistols also make their appearance in this story of strong loyalties, secret trysts, betrayals, and stolen diamonds.

A few painted hangings on the walls behind the audience and the platform itself comprise the decor. Incidental props and small pieces of furniture appear as needed and are whisked away afterward. Shifting atmospheres are provided by John Burkland's precision lighting, along with the sound design.

Quintessence's own in-house adapters have connected this series of astutely curated dramatic scenes. It would have been so easy to make a muddle of it, but Mattie Hawkinson, Josh Carpenter, Sean Close, and Alexander Burns have achieved an admirable clarity with their script. Deftly directed by Burns, the performance moves forward at a clip, with dynamic action, bragging, whispers, political resonance, and even hearty song.

To keep up with plot twists and cast doubling, however, the audience must pay attention. Luckily, M. Dumas's intermittent narration with its droll asides provides guidance along with pithy, delicious phrasings. A kiss between the queen and Buckingham is described as "The most passionate kiss in the entire history of time."

Featured on the cover of the program is a view of a nude woman, seen from the back. This is somewhat misleading. Although themes of romantic intrigue, infatuation and love weave through the performance, the only skin exposed is that of a comical lackey in red undershorts.

Jane Casanave's costumes lend themselves to lightning-quick character changes for doubled roles. Among the remarkable dual performances by the strong cast are Michael Brusasco's dashing Buckingham and his Musketeer, resourceful Athos. Andrew Criss, riveting as Treville, the bold commander of the Musketeers, also cringes as the cowardly landlord Bonacieux. Gregory Isaac shows his skill as he changes from impetuous Porthos to cunning Cardinal Richelieu. And Rochefort, the cardinal's agent and ferocious swordsman (and Buckingham's evil twin in dashingness), is played by Ken Sandberg, who is also Musketeer Porthos's lackey. Alan Brincks is Musketeer Aramis, the pious lothario, and also Buckingham's servant, Patrick.

Julia Frey, who does a villainous turn as the Cardinal's agent Milady, is also the unhappy Queen Anne, whose heart lies outside the royal chamber. Rachel Brodeur, d'Artagnan's sweet love interest, Constance, Mme Bonacieux, is up to her ears in secrets. Sean Close's flamboyant and amusing King looks like a queen collided with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page in the 70s. It's hard to believe that Close is the same actor who plays d'Artagnan's useful servant, Planchet. The 13 ensemble members also play other assorted parts… including a barmaid, functionaries, Cardinal's guards and swordsmen . . . and horses.

Finally, there's Connor Hammond, first seen with Quintessence in Henry V. He was also in the cast of As You Like It, and he showed promise in their Richard II, where he played the Queen and also Harry Percy. In this production Hammond charms as a brash and confident d'Artagnan, bursting with youthful vitality and looking for a fight.

The story's sprawling structure shows its origins as a serial adventure. (It was first published in the 1844 daily newspaper, Le Siecle. ) Alas, all the expansive action couldn't be contained in one production. This rousing show is Part One. It achieves a good ending point as "Le Complot Des Diamants" reaches closure, thanks to d'Artagnan. However, there's a whole lot more to the tale of The Three Musketeers. Here's hoping the crack adaptation team tackles Part II before too long. To see the two parts of Quintessence's The Three Musketeers performed in repertory is something devoutly to be wished for.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Adapted by Josh Carpenter, Sean Close, Mattie Hawkinson, Alexander Burns
Directed by Alexander Burns

Cast: Alan Brincks, Rachel Brodeur, Michael Brusasco, Sean Close, Lee Cortopassi, Andrew Criss, Parke Fech, Julia Frey, Connor Hammond, Anita Holland, Gregory Isaac, Jeff Moorhead,  Ken Sandberg 
Scenic Design: Alexander Burns
Lighting Design: John Burkland
Fight direction: Ian Rose
Costume Design: Jane Casenave
Sound Design: Alexander Burns
Choreographer: Janet Pilla Marini
April 15 – May 10
2 hours and 40 minutes including one 10 minute intermission
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 04/19/2015 performance. Quintessence Theater Group at the Sedgwick Theater, Germantown Ave, Mount Airy, Philadelphia
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