The folks of Walking Shadow definitely bit off more than they could chew with their epic adaptation of The Three Musketeers, now playing at the Dowling Lab at the Guthrie Theater. While handsomely crafted and well acted, the show collapses under the weight of Dumas's original novel by the middle of the second act, making the final scenes flat and uninteresting.
Not only is the original full of action and events, it also features intriguing questions about the nature of loyalty, duty, and honor. All of those are present, but the chance to really dig into what makes the characters tick is lost in the unrelenting amount of story that needs to be covered.
The familiar characters -- d'Artagnan, Richelieu, Milady, and, of course, the three musketeers -- are all here, as we take a journey through a 17th-century France that feels more than a little like the modern-day world.
Adapter John Heimbuch works hard to keep the original tone and flair of the Dumas original alive, but the story gets bogged down as the youthful swashbuckling is replaced by the darker drums of assassination and war. That kind of pacing is hard to pull off, and the deeper development of the characters gets swept away in the engine of the plot.
The journeys that d'Artagnan and Milady go through here are the most interesting, from his rise from naive newcomer to grizzled and somewhat cynical veteran to her attempts to keep her head on her shoulders (literally). More focus on these plot threads is a possible way to keep the energy from flagging so much near the end.
What does work well are the performances, especially Bryan Porter as d'Artagnan and Aeysha Kinnunen as Milady. Both characters have long and complex arcs to take, and the actors carry us through those changes from beginning to end.
Nate Cheeseman, Shad Cooper, and Ross Destiche buckle their swashes well as Porthos, Athos, and Aramis, and do what they can with the somewhat sketchy characters.
The company as a whole should be lauded, as they bring the entire sweep of the story to life with only 10 actors. Set designer Joseph Stanley and costume designer E. Amy Hill both craft sharp visuals for the production, while Michael Croswell's sound design gives the show plenty of energy and verve. The fights scenes (there are plenty, especially in Act One) are nicely designed by David P. Schneider.
Director Amy Rummenie does good work to tame this beast of a show, but it just doesn't come together in a way that's ultimately satisfying.
IF YOU GO:
The Three Musketeers
Through May 25
818 S. Second St., MInneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online.