By Jamie Bullins
Beatrice Community Players, Saturday, March 26, 2022, 7:30 pm.
In his Director’s Clipboard, John Marinovich likens The Three Musketeers to “swashbuckling” movies and also stories of “daring-do.” Let’s harken back to the origin of that word “swashbuckler,” back to the 16th century with heroes, soldiers, adventurers, and the literal explanation of the sound one makes when one smashes their sword against someone else’s shield in battle. And “derring-do” finds its origins as early as Chaucer’s work in the 16th century as well, referring to daring actions, and defining manhood and chivalry as well.
As a side note, thankfully this is not completely a man’s game or story, featuring brave and daring turns in the role of Sabine (Jenny Sutphin) who disproves any thoughts of that unpleasant misnomer of the weaker sex time and again throughout the evening.
All this introduction to remind us that we have been fascinated by the adventure story for over 500 years. The fascination remains. The action, the honor, the romance, good vs. evil: it’s all there. And it is as exciting as ever to see the villain get their comeuppance. Take that, Cardinal Richelieu.
On a basic and balanced unit set, with locations specified simply and effectively by a simple projection, we sit and witness a rollicking story fully visualized with rambunctious conflict and swordplay (good job with the choreography director John Marinovich), peppered with intrigue, love, and loss. It’s a time of honor and duty, and a quickness of the glint of your blade. Except for one instance the night I saw the performance, when Sabine missed that last draw for the final “and one for all.” It was a technical glitch, but grin-worthy, especially since she simply moved on through it and we were all in on the joke when it didn’t quite go off as planned. It’s live theatre folks, that’s what makes it unpredictable and exhilarating.
The costumes were reflective of the era and some were quite stunning. The lights added some depth and texture that specifically kept the scenic elements from becoming stagnant.
An additional note about the fight/stage choreography: while we as kids most likely loved to frantically go at one another with whatever our make-believe swords may have been, that wasn’t the case here, and thank you for that. It was obvious that it was well planned, carefully rehearsed, and carried out to the greatest detail. I never feared for anyone’s safety and also, wasn’t distracted either by any uncertainty projected from the performers. Thanks again for that care, it made the show.
To point out a few performances, D’Artagnan (Mason Gustafson) presented us equally with a wide-eyed naivety and youthful desire to serve and honor his dreams and destiny. The three Musketeers (Athos/Brandon Clark, Porthos/Marshall Tuttle, and Aramis/Reed Westerhoff) complement each other well and are, on the whole, pretty great. They are the heroes of the story and portray them with bluster and braggadocio, creating a fine harmony that drives the story. Sabine, as mentioned before, is no slacker and certainly not just an annoying little sister, as D’Artagnan may want to pretend. She’s her own man, and can swashbuckle with the best of them, even though quite taken by a particular Musketeer. She’s a joy to watch. Our villainous Cardinal Richelieu (Kurt Conradt) is that through and through. You dislike him from the start, sleazy and scheming from the first scene to the end. Milady de Winter (Ashley Hothan) is the instrument who exuberantly carries out his malevolent plans. Wicked and deceptive, but a deeper contributor to the story that is revealed later on, and you wonder if some of her situation is not actually put upon her. King Louis XIII (Kent Seevers) offers a look at a monarch of a nearly bumbling nature, but not quite. He revels in winning, but somehow still relies on the Cardinal (as he did historically), ignoring his obvious dubious duplicity. He does have faith in his Musketeers and seems to love his Queen, even in the face of some challenges, one might say. Buckingham (Pat Marlatt) has an amusing, over-the-top nature and physicality that could seem out of place, but I found it a welcome comic relief. Constance (Natalie Frahm) plays the role of dedication to the Queen and then D’Artagnan with a believable honesty and a purity of spirit. The remaining ensemble helped to move the story along very well, without distraction and with an honesty and compassion that I’ve become accustomed to when attending the Players’ work.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, the theatre here in Nebraska has heart. You remind me consistently that each of you wants to be here, on this stage, putting in the work with passion. Thank you, Beatrice Community Players, keep telling your stories.
If you go: You can catch The Three Musketeers March 27, April 1-3, Fridays/Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased online.
Jamie Bullins is on the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an Educator, Scenographer, Director, and Playwright and has been at it for almost 30 years now.
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