Review: “The Three Musketeers” at The Shakespeare Company

Vicki Trask

  • OnStage Calgary Critic

I am so happy that I got to see “The Three Musketeers” before it closed. I grew up loving that swaggering genre of fiction and I knew that The Shakespeare Company, with Ground Zero Theatre, could turn out an amazing production. I was not disappointed.

The Studio at Vertigo Theatre was transformed into 17th century France as we follow young D’Artagnan on his journey to become one of the King’s Musketeers. It’s 2.5 hours of romance, murder, intrigue, and more sword fights than I ever thought imaginable on that stage.

Directors Haysam Kadri and Karl Sine created a coherent and entertaining story from start to finish. I liked the decision to take it that step further in comedy and drama. I thought the exaggerated nature heightened the investment and allowed the actors more freedom, which they certainly took advantage of – made for a more entertaining audience experience.

Karl Sine’s fight direction was just fantastic. There was constantly something to watch. I was on the edge of my seat – and simultaneously recoiling at how close those sword-wielding men came to my front-row seat. They worked well with costume and set design by Hanne Loosen. I thought she used the theatre well, it was a creative way to show location changes without relying on projections or lengthy set changes.

 The actors had a great space to play in. Jacob Lesiuk as D’Artagnan was boyishly charming. This is a very wordy role so I applaud his speed and memorization but he needed to take a breath to let his words settle. I could barely keep up with him – and I know there were some jokes that I just didn’t catch because he was throwing them out too quickly. He had the look and the words; he just needed a little more flow.

The three inseparables, Aramis, Athos, and Porthos, were just that. Played by Justin Michael Carriere, Nathan Schmidt, and Brent Gill respectively, these men were individually talented and strong but together, their charisma was overwhelming. They won my heart during their first entrance and it never wavered.

First of all, Milady DeWinter played by Mabelle Carvajal, had some gorgeous costumes pieces so kudos to Hanne Loosen and the students at Olds College. Second of all, Mabelle wore that character so well. A dangerous, scorned, and vicious woman who knows how to get what she wants. I would have liked to see a little more vulnerability in her more humanizing scene but I loved her badass persona.

The women in this show were all phenomenal. Natasha Strickey, playing the charming Constance, carried herself with a quiet confidence and it was so beautiful to watch. Brianna Johnston portrayals of Jussac and Kitty felt very similar. I found her two characters both familiar and inconsistent – particularly with Kitty. I really admired Myla Southward’s ability to jump between stoic and crazy. Her performance as Queen Anne – and later Abbess – was so funny. Whenever she entered, I knew that I’d be entertained. She was campy without being over the top or vying for laughs and I loved the balance.

It may have been my own prejudice towards Cardinal Richelieu, played by Joel Cochrane, but I saw the same choices being made that I’ve seen before. Obviously there are some limitations within the script but it felt predictable. Now Ryan Luhning’s performance as Rochefort is an example of being a little over the top for my taste but Ryan’s commitment to the character and all of those quirks was so impressive I can’t complain.

King Louis VIII is a character I expected to be over the top but I don’t think Kevin Rothery’s portrayal landed for me. I felt like he was trying to get a laugh and I just didn’t find it funny. Then there’s Jason Schneider performance as Buckingham. I enjoyed watching him – not just because he seemed to like getting naked – but it felt teetering; like he either needed to pull back or take it further. Granted, a lot of his character consisted of one-liners and sexual jokes, I saw a caricature of a Lord and lover. And of course the ensemble, comprised of John Knight and Zakk MacDonald (as well as other actors throughout the production), rounded out the talented cast fourteen who brought this adventurous tale to life.

Overall, I liked it – I loved it. I thought it was a campy and fun without being over the top and it still kept the weight and drama of the original story. As I said, I’m very happy that I got to see this production before it closed.