Wednesday, August 1, 2012
It's a rare treat to get to review a brand new play at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. It's even more fun when the play is as rollicking a success as Scott Wentworth's delicious The Man in the Iron Mask. The second offering in SSC's 2012 season, it's a sequel to last season's popular production of The Three Musketeers. Using material from two later Alexandre Dumas novels, Wentworth and director John Sipes collaborate to give the audience piling into the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen everything they've come to see—action, humor, love, honor, and plenty of roistering camaraderie.
20 years after events in the last play, the original three Musketeers have retired. Their former comrade-in-arms, D'Artagnan (Kit Wilder) has become Captain of the King's Musketeers, although now he serves a new king, son of his last employer—pleasure-seeking, war-mongering young Louis XIV (Charles Pasternak). The dying Queen Mother, Anne of Austria (an elegant, heartfelt Marion Adler), sets the plot in motion with a secret visit to ex-Musketeer, Aramis (V Craig Heidenreich), now a priest, with a terrible confession: her part in the unjust imprisonment of a young boy in the Bastille years earlier.
Meanwhile, Porthos (Ted Barton), now a wealthy baron hosting the king's upcoming birthday fete, is fretting about the state of his wardrobe. Athos (the formidable Dierk Torsek), now a count, has retired to a contemplative, teetotaler's life on his country estate—until King Louis sends Athos' only son, the dashing guardsman, Raoul (Armando McLain) off to a volatile war zone so the king can bring Raoul's betrothed, Louise (Lisa Kitchens), to court, and seduce her.
Aramis discovers the masked prisoner is Philippe (also Pasternak, wonderful in both dual roles), compassionate twin brother to Louis with just as legitimate a claim to the throne. Intrigues abound, loyalties are tested, friendships renewed, honor upheld, and, of course, swords are crossed as the plot gallops along. The play is both stirring and funny, especially when the old comrades are onstage together. ("Age before Beauty." "Pearls before swine," Athos and Porthos spar, each attempting to politely usher the other through a doorway.) And the cast is terrific. (Read more)
(Above: Kit Wilder as D'Artagnan (left) with Gabriel Lawrence as conniving Royal Guardsman De Wardes. Photo by rr jones.)