Reunion and Regicide in The Three Musketeers: Twenty Years Later
Hudson Warehouse continues its ongoing adaptation of The D'Artagnan Romances.
Even Musketeers have midlife crises. We see that clearly in Susane Lee's efficient and entertaining The Three Musketeers: Twenty Years Later, adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas. This is the second installment of Lee's ambitious project to adapt Dumas's entire D'Artagnan Romances series for Hudson Warehouse, the scrappy company that presents high-quality outdoor drama every summer on the back patio of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park — and only asks audience members to pay what they can. Fans of last year's Musketeers play won't be disappointed by this swashbuckling sequel that highlights a fundamental truth: You're never too old to kick some ass.
It takes place when France was ruled by a child king, Louis XIV (Samuel O'Sullivan). His mother, Anne of Austria (Karen Collazzo), serves as regent. But as with the last Louis, a Catholic prelate is the true power in France. The Italian-born Cardinal Mazarin (Joseph Cordaro) taxes the people relentlessly to pay for his war with Spain. This has precipitated the Fronde, a popular rebellion that has made Paris unsafe for the royal family. Mazarin charges Musketeer Lieutenant D'Artagnan (a naively gallant Jake Lesh) to reunite his old colleagues Athos (Joseph Hamel), Porthos (a Falstaff-like David Palmer Brown), and Aramis (Nicholas Martin-Smith) to protect the royals, promising rich rewards if he succeeds. Having not had a promotion in 20 years, D'Artagnan readily jumps at the opportunity. Getting his retired friends to sign on with him is another matter.
In less than 90 minutes, Lee impressively manages to unpack this story line while providing lucid explanations of the Fronde and the English Civil War (which serves as the B-plot). Dumas was decidedly monarchist, a perspective that remains here through sympathetic portrayals of England's Queen Henrietta (a tearful Lisa LaGrande) and Charles I (a dashing Griffin Stanton-Ameisen).
Of course, O'Sullivan's bratty Louis XIV strikes a blow against the notion of hereditary rule, as does Collazzo's clueless Queen Anne. But Joseph Dalfonso's fire-breathing Oliver Cromwell suggests that the alternatives to these divinely chosen buffoons are often far worse. Then there's the clergy: Cordaro portrays Mazarin as a man who truly takes pleasure in his corruption, a toothy grin gleaming through a thick forest of facial hair. However, his malice is nothing compared with that of the vendetta-driven stranger Mordaunt (a terrifying Ian Potter). With these people driving the national agenda, it's no wonder the masses are rising up.
In addition to delivering a devout performance as Aramis, Martin-Smith directs a zippy production that allows the heavy exposition of this play to blow across the stage like a pleasant summer breeze. The patio provides all the set the production needs, while the resourceful Emily Rose Parman fills in the blanks with her eye-catching costumes (the cardinal's fabulous gold-toed shoes look like they've been lifted from the Versace display in the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the Met).
Fight director Katrina Art choreographs the kind of multilayered swordfights that made last year's production so thrilling. The fight scenes depicting the Paris rabble are clumsier, but considering these aren't professional soldiers, that seems like the correct choice.
Tantalizingly, Lee includes a teaser for next year's installment, The Man in the Iron Mask (the bit is wedged into the curtain call, so be sure to stay until the end). If you're not hooked on the series by now, you will be by the end of Twenty Years Later.