The opening night performance of Brelby Theatre’s Beyond Musketeers: Utopia Lost began with a curtain speech from director Brian Maticic, who warned us that the production was “super combat-heavy.” He wasn’t kidding. It seemed that nearly every scene of this occasionally entertaining retelling of Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers ended in a sword battle. Having already slaughtered subtle writing and clever acting, the Brelby folks appeared intent on murdering both their cast and the poor slobs in the front row, seated mere inches from these boisterous battles.
Maticic’s fight choreography was certainly energetic. Featuring fake fisticuffs, swishy sword fights, and a random cartwheel, these skirmishes served to pad a wee bit of story about a post-apocalypse Phoenix, renamed New Phoenix. It’s 2075, and our town is now a cross between a 17th-century monarchy and a Mad Max remake, run by a king and queen and protected by a co-ed version of the Musketeers who communicate by texting on their flip phones. In this new Valley of the Sun, quaint fortune tellers live alongside war-minded zombies called Berserkers, and everyone’s involved on one side or another of a battle for control after the queen is accused of political canoodling with — no kidding — the Duke of Seattle.
Blame for this often ironic story can be assigned to the Brelby Writers Circle, who have adapted Dumas’ well-known historical adventure, grafting on familiar contemporary contrivances like undead villains and Orwellian spying. The humor is often too easy, taking the form of sarcastic asides and nudge-and-wink goofing (at one point, in reference to the play’s umpteenth battle sequence, Dartagnon’s cell phone rings to the tune of “Hit Me Baby One More Time”). The musketeers, when they’re not vanquishing cotton-blend-clad marauders in helmets made of gray duct tape, trade banter about sex and good versus evil. Mostly, though, they beat the crap out of everyone they meet.
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Cody Goulder offers some range as Athos, the defacto musketeers leader who regrets slaying his wife. Shelby Maticic plays Queen Anne (you know she’s the queen because she has paste jewels stuck to her face) as a closet ninja whose solemn performance suggests she’d rather be platting daisies or whatever post-apocalypse royalty does. Mia Pasarella offers an energetic performance as lecherous lesbian Porthos, rewritten in this version to, I suppose, prove that sex stereotypes will be with us even after civilization is long gone.
The overall effect here is of goth teens playing at low art. As a vanity project performed for Mom and Dad, Beyond Musketeers is two hours of cute fun. For the rest of us, it’s excessive and flat and entirely worth missing.
Beyond Musketeers: Utopia Lost
continues through Saturday, August 1, at 6835 N. 58th Ave. in Glendale. Call 623-282-2781 or visit www.brelby.com.