Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre opened the world premiere of “The Two Musketeers” on April 10, 2015; this hilarious parody and fast-moving farce will be on stage through May 15, 2015. The two-act play, adapted by Jon Jory from the 1844 novel “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas, is about ninety minutes long. As you may know, Dumas’s book, set largely in France in the early 1600’s, as been required reading in many schools. This classic tale of male bonding has remained popular through time, inspiring an operetta, a couple of Broadway musicals, and many films.

Jory’s approach to the subject is to present the play as a story within a story: the work of a small present-day theatrical troupe, with actors who frequently share thoughts, observations, and conversations with the audience. Funding is limited, and to save money, the director eliminates the role of Porthos, one of the Musketeers. Aramis and Athos must carry on as the downsized Two Musketeers. They take D’Artagnan, played with youthful abandon by David Patrick Ford, under their wing as he completes an apprenticeship of sorts in hopes of being accepted into the ranks of the elite King’s Musketeers.

This is a hard-working troupe: there are only six actors and the script has twenty-five characters. While Ford’s role is limited to that of D’Artagnan, the others portray anywhere from three to seven roles. For example, Nick Clark Tanner appears as Athos, The King, Bonacieux, a jeweler, and a boatman.

musk02The pace is frenzied, and takes place on an open stage, with two large posts from floor to ceiling in center stage at the rear, and costumes hanging between the poles. Many quick changes take place, and the actors frequently retrieve props from behind the set.

The play is filled with physical comedy. Riding horses must be portrayed in pantomime, and the brandishing of swords and the frequent fight scenes require a command of athletics.

The plot follows the Dumas story, which involves political issues between England and France, spies, love affairs, and the rivalry between Cardinal Richelieu’s guards and the King’s musketeers. (Advisory: while the program includes an insert with background information about the plot and characters, many theatre goers are likely to find additional details helpful – a quick look at Wikipedia should do it).

musk03The women played by Tiza Garland (Milady and Queen Anne) and Caitlin Hargraves (Constance and Kitty) are lovely and sometimes deadly. Michael Stewart Allen and Matthew Lindsay round out this agile and talented collection of performers.

Director Lauren Warhol Caldwell’s excellent casting and direction has made the production an exciting experience. Costume Designer Jessica Nilacala Kreitzer obviously put in many hours creating the costumes, and Properties Designer Angela Zylla was extremely busy with the many props.

The play, in addition to making theatre audiences laugh, would be especially attractive to high school and college theatre programs, as it offers many challenges to both actors and technical staff.

Mr. Jory is currently a faculty member in the Performing Arts Department of Santa Fe University of Art and Design in New Mexico. The Dual Critics have both met Mr. Jory through our many years of attending the Humana Festival of New American Plays, which he helped establish at Louisville’s Actors Theatre, where he was the producing director for thirty-two years.

Jory is a fine playwright, and we recall seeing his widely produced adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” at the University of Florida several years ago. Of note, Mr. Jory has directed and produced many plays of the pseudonymous Jane Martin, a number of which have been on Jacksonville stages and include “Talking With,” “Vital Signs,” “Keely and Du” (which was nominated for a Pulitzer), and “Anton in Show Business.” Martin is still writing and Jory is still supporting her work. We saw her last play titled “H20,” which he directed, at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in 2013 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

For a most interesting theatrical event, consider a visit to downtown Gainesville and the Hippodrome Theater to see “Two Musketeers!” which will run through May 3, 2015.

Up next at the Hipp, brought back by popular demand, will be “Honky Tonk Angels,” their summer musical, which opens May 29, 2015. Call 352-375-4477 or visit thehipp.org for reservations.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.