Cut to the Swashbuckling

Who needs history and culture? Not The Three Musketeers.

Walking Shadow's Three Musketeers
Photo by Michael Lamont

Playwright John Heimbuch has a strong affinity for the classics. The co-artistic director of Walking Shadow Theatre Company has adapted works by the likes of Shakespeare and Washington Irving. Now he’s taking on Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, which is being directed by his co-artistic director, Amy Rummenie, at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio.

Heimbuch’s first experience of the story was the movie starring Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen, which he didn’t warm to. Then he saw Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s version. “One of the things I love about the classics is that they provide an opportunity to create a relationship to a work that already exists,” he says. This is particularly true of Three Musketeers: It was already a historical epic when it was written. Dumas was in the 18th century looking back to the 16th century, to the world of chivalry and cavaliers.

Now Heimbuch is adding another layer to the drama. “We’re using 10 actors in 46 named roles,” Heimbuch says. “That’s part of what makes this adaptation so playful and fun.” The production relies on language, theatricality, and performances rather than elaborate production values to engage the audience. That, and plenty of swashbuckling.

“When I first read the book, I was surprised at how tedious it was,” Heimbuch admits. “There was a spirit of adventure there, but lots of digressions about history and culture. We keep the tongue-in-cheek spirit of Dumas but cut all the rest.” May 9–25. Dowling Studio, Guthrie Theater, 612-377-2224,