BWW Review: THE THREE MUSKETEERS at Shea's 710 Theatre
A new entity has formed where the name of the game is collaboration and pooling talents to serve the greater good. Buffalo's All For One Theatrical Productions mounted their inaugural play last weekend with THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Obviously their company's name had a great deal to do with the chosen first venture, but more about that later.
Five of the region's most successful companies have joined forces, including Irish Classical Theatre Company, MusicalFare Theatre, Road Less Traveled Productions, Shea's 710 Theatre, and Theatre of Youth. But what sounds good as a concept is not fully clear in practicality. How these companies actually worked together is a bit of a quandary. Is it purely financial or does each company set forth their best players and designers? Do they share resources and how many cooks just are there in this kitchen? Obviously, the marketing aspect allows each company to sell the production to their individual audiences, which can only benefit Shea's 710 Theatre. Nevertheless, it was a joyous surprise to see so much great talent back at the former Studio Arena space working with high quality sets, costumes and lighting.
Now, onto the play. While the title screams collaboration, what doesn't seem necessary is a stage production of Alexandre Dumas' classic book. Such an epic tale is difficult to condense, and this adaptation by Linda Alper does a reasonable job at delineating each of the many characters through multiple short scenes. Set in early 17th century Paris, the saga tells of the King of France's military musketeers and their loves and battles. But the required large cast often muddies the waters of effective story telling. The overly long first act clocks in at almost 90 minutes, and an audience can grow weary with such along exposition. The second act does a much better job at accelerating the story that could become bogged down with politics and the Huguenots revolution. What works best is the opportunity for stage combat, and happily this production has that in spades.
Stage Director Chris Kelly has put together a fine, multi-talented cast, mixed with some of Buffalo's best and members of the Actors Equity Association. Kelly knows how to make stunning stage pictures and deftly manages transitions, resulting in a well rehearsed cast. Kudos to Fight Director Steve Vaughan for his brilliant sword fights and bar room brawls. The cast is fully convincing in wielding their swords, without hesitation, which heightens the drama. The two level set allows for swinging from ropes, with large ares for jousting and tussles, as well as assaults with daggers and flying brooms.
Our famous trio is made up of Anthony Alcocer as Aramis, Christopher Avery as Athos, and Steve Copps as Porthos. Their camaraderie is palpable, and each of the men do a fine job delineating their individualities. Copps is great fun as the egotist, Alcocer is spot on as the musketeer torn between military service and the religious life, while Avery gives a great performance as the spurned lover. Patrick Cameron is excellent as our the hero, D'Artagnan-- the newest member of the musketeers. Mr. Cameron commands the stage from the outset, and is a worthy candidate for the group. Fisher is the Captain of the musketeers, and while his appearance and convincing laugh fit the role, his overemphasized deliberate line delivery became tiresome and often was hard to understand.
Kate LoConti is Milady, the Countess, whose evil nature is accentuated by her long back hair and black gowns. LoConti revels in her nastiness and exudes power as the villainess. Chris Hatch is great as the cocky Count de Rochefort, placing challenges and obstacles at every turn for the valiant musketeers, and acting as the agent of Cardinal Richelieu ( played by Peter Palmisano). Cassie Cameron is a regal Queen Anne and Renee Landrigan is lovely as the Queen's dress maker and the object of D'Artagnan's affections. Meanwhile Jordan Levi turns in a spot on comedic performance as the foppish King Louis.
Lighting designed by Chris Cavanagh is evocative, mixing well with hazy fog and strong backlighting. Susan Drozd has created marvelously detailed costumes and stunning wigs.
While all the elements are in place for a successful second production, I hope the leaders choose a more accessible title that works well for the stage. Such a bevy of talent needs to be carefully nurtured to ensure future successes. And while THE THREE MUSKETEERS seemed like the perfect choice, I wish all this money and intense labor had been bestowed on a more worthy play.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS is presented by All For One Theatrical Productions at Shea's 710 Theatre through November 18, 2018. Contact sheas.org for more information.