Buff guys, plucky girls and swordplay

The Three Musketeers

D’Artagnan takes on a bad guy, sans shirt.

D’Artagnan takes on a bad guy, sans shirt.

Photo By Main Street Theatre Works

Rated 4.0

Summer’s the season when many community-theater groups offer diverting, festive productions, staged outdoors at twilight with a large cast, lots of costumes and a bit of physicality onstage.

The Three Musketeers, a youth-oriented action-adventure tale penned in the mid-1800s by Alexandre Dumas, embodies the heroic and melodramatic notions of that era by focusing on four seemingly invincible swordsmen who have more kinship with comic-book superheroes than any character found in Shakespeare.

The script (in the case of this Main Street Theatre Works production) was penned in 2006 by Ken Ludwig (who’s developed a portfolio of similarly brisk literary adaptations, including Treasure Island, done last year by the Sacramento Theatre Company). Ludwig works in more swordfights than you’ve got fingers and toes, and he makes up for the Dumas novel’s lack of “girl power” by adding Sabine (played by the energetic Carissa Meagher), who is D’Artagnan’s plucky sister. She’s good with a sword (better than he is, to hear her tell it) and disguises herself as a boy when she accompanies him to Paris. (As any English major knows, the girl passing as a boy is a common device in Shakespeare comedies.)

Director Susan McCandless has recruited four limber 20-somethings as her leading men: Colby Salmon as brash D’Artagnan (displaying his trim torso during his entrance in a shirtless fight scene), David Campfield as the thoughtful Athos, James Ellison as the clothes-obsessed Porthos and Brent Randolph as the religiously inclined Aramis. Jessicah Neufeld plays Constance, the pretty lady at court who is the object of D’Artagnan’s affections.

The bad guys—and this is a show in which even a child can tell the good guys from the bad guys at a glance—are Cardinal Richelieu (Dean Shellenberger, basically doing Darth Vader in red vestments), Dale Lisa Flint (deliciously chilly as the female assassin Milady) and the hapless henchman Rochefort (Gregory Smith). They are outwitted almost every time through the lucky intervention of those four hunky swordsmen, with their heroic cry “All for one, and one for all!” (This is a marked contrast to Much Ado, in which the evildoers are accidentally nabbed by dimwitted constables who mangle the language so badly that they’re among Shakespeare’s funniest creations).

The Three Musketeers has broad appeal. The show’s mix of action and derring-do with a smidgen of romance will satisfy the preteen set, and the humor (while less bawdy than Shakespeare) is just sophisticated enough to keep the adults onboard. The play’s language—basically contemporary—won’t rattle Bard-phobic theatergoers still recovering from a negative experience in high-school English.

This production is better staged than many summer amphitheater productions by community groups. The microphones are hung on a wire overhead, which makes for better sound pickup, without those clunking footsteps when the mics are taped to the stage. The lighting and other technical aspects are likewise better executed than most.

And the Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre, while a bit off the beaten track, is a lovely place to see a show. Don’t forget to bring a picnic basket and some low-slung lawn chairs.