The Acting Company has a long and storied history as a launch pad for successful actors such as Patti LuPone, Jesse L. Martin, Kevin Kline, and Rainn Wilson. Their formula is fairly simple: take professional actors on nationwide tours to develop their skills while exposing audiences in the hinterlands to classical works of theater. This formula proves itself in their latest touring production, The Three Musketeers, which played at the Center for the Arts at George Mason University on January 28.
The Three Musketeers, as adapted by playwright Kirsten Childs and directed by Kent Gash, is a wonderful entrée to theater for all ages. This refresh of the classic story originally penned by author Alexandre Dumas—the Black son of a Black French Revolutionary War general—tells the swashbuckling tale of musketeers Porthos, Athos, and Aramis as they take on the young and eager d’Artagnan. The original story includes intrigue, as well as thinly veiled criticisms of the social mores of the Ancien Régime and its monarchist supporters, who were still influential in French politics post-Revolution. Childs maintains Dumas’ critical thread—and cleverly layers on a few criticisms of her own.
William Oliver Watkins plays Dumas, who acts as a narrator for portions of the play. His role bookends the concept that acts as a throughline for this fresh and buzzy adaptation: Memories of people are always influenced by the broader culture, but are also influenced by an individual’s positioning in the system. Eunice Woods plays the spy, Milady de Winter, with a biting wit. Childs uses the character of Milady to critically examine how Dumas, while exposing the injustices facing Black men, buried the stories of Black women (or women in general). We can only ever guess at the suffering and struggles of others, which is why it’s so important for each person to be provided the space to tell their own story.
Wiry Texas native Darius Deon takes a charming turn in the role of d’Artagnan. This down-to-earth adaptation presents d’Artagnan as a country bumpkin whose ambition lands him right in the middle of a court intrigue. The three musketeers themselves are archetypes. Athos (played exactingly by Sam Encarnación) is hot-headed, always ready for a fight. Travis Raeburn is comedic and solid in the role of the worldly, preening Porthos. Christopher Then rounds out the group as Aramis, excelling in a role where he is required to be both devout and lustful.
Notably, Torée Alexandre brings a humanizing weight to the role of Constance—I was truly upset about the resolution of her arc. Likewise, Max Antonio Gonzalez is hilarious as the preening and overconfident Duke of Buckingham.
This play has a little bit of everything. Costume Designer Ann Hould-Ward updated the 16th- and 18th-century garb to more recognizable duds: Porthos and Buckingham, in particular, are the peacocks of this production, garbed in lush fabrics to attract the eye. There are even a couple of musical numbers (also penned by Childs) to hold your attention. Additionally, Scenic Designer Edward E. Haynes Jr. has created a (literal) platform that portrays dozens of different settings in a way that is clear to the audience and useful for the actors as they move through this fast-paced play.
This was a phenomenal production on every level. As someone who has seen classics done classically one too many times, I can honestly say that The Acting Company’s The Three Musketeers is a breath of fresh air in a theater landscape that has been, but is increasingly less, stale. I hope to see more of this type of production hosted in the coming years—the audience for this is out there, and plays like The Three Musketeers will speak to a new, more modern generation of theater fans.
Running Time: Two hours 10 minutes, including one intermission.
The Three Musketeers played January 28, 2023, presented by The Acting Company performing at George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4373 Mason Pond Drive, Fairfax, VA. For information about The Acting Company’s national tour dates, click here. For information about future shows at GMU, click here.
The program for The Three Musketeers is online here.
COVID Safety: The Center for the Arts current safety policy is here.