Sunday, November 19, 2017
Stage

Hat Trick Theatre's farcical 'The Three Musketeers' is about as much fun as losing a sword fight

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CLEARWATER — For its last production of the season, Hat Trick Theatre has chosen an adaptation of The Three Musketeers. Two of its own, original director Joe Winskye and photographer Bianca Badia, wrote this farcical interpretation, which takes this baroque adventure by Alexandre Dumas and mashes the accelerator to the floor.

The comical story has survived several retellings, including a Broadway musical and multiple movies. This one, directed by Winskye, might be the first that focuses primarily on the sword fights and other slapstick, or attempts such a dizzying pace.

Stephen Fisher, Jack Holloway and Paul McColgan play musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis, plus another role each. Ryan Bernier, the show's brightest element, stars as D'artagnan, a naive dispossessed nobleman in 17th-century France who dreams of joining the elite Musketeers of the Guard but gets mugged before he reaches Paris. There follows an interlocking string of betrayals and ludicrous dangers.

Say this for Winskye, Badia and Hat Trick — putting this on must be an exhausting task. It certainly was a trial to watch.

The set consists mostly of a tall fortress of angled stairs running the length of the stage, which facilitate dozens of scene changes every few minutes. The numerous levels also give characters platforms to leap off of, sword in hand.

This play is very egalitarian about who does what.

Women get to duel.

Men get to be women, including men disguised as nuns. David Barrow wears an overstuffed bodice as the innkeeper's daughter. (The character elicited hearty guffaws from the audience with each appearance, so by that measure the outfit apparently worked.)

And actors get to play for two and a half hours like kids running around a tree fort. (Even that wasn't enough for Bernier, who jogs "to London" by running in place, stage left, the entire intermission.)

There's some mildly amusing dialogue. A voyeuristic Aramis can't put down the spyglass to scope out nuns, changing clothes in a neighboring convent. "I just call it nun-derware," he says.

D'artagnan and his lover, played by Molly Schoolmeester, bicker over who gets to address the audience. The best line of the night was an ad-lib by Holloway, who slipped while sprinting up the stairs and landed on his face.

"I'm all right," he solemnly intoned.

Barrow doubles as a soap opera villain of a Cardinal Richelieu, and McColgan carries Aramis with a certain swagger. Other performers, including Matthew Frankel shouting through a portrayal of the cardinal's henchman and Schoolmeester meandering between four roles like a dealer shuffling a deck of cards, are harder to take.

So too are the set changes every few minutes, accomplished by moving boxes around, and a structure that leans heavily on narration by D'artagnan tantamount to a running voiceover.

If you like the synchronized slamming doors of a bedroom farce, you might like this. If you remembered the plot twists in The Three Musketeers, this show will help you forget them again. It feels like a satire of a satire, with the built-in safeguard that anyone who doesn't love it just doesn't get the artistry of it all.

I'd be one of those. But I'm glad it was fun for them.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

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