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Sabine (Montana von Fliss with Ryan Shams as Aramis) shares her brother d'Artagnan's ambition for glory and travels with him to Paris disguised as his male servant.

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'The Three Musketeers' opens at Seattle Rep!

Seattle Repertory Theatre adds some girl power to 'The Three Musketeers'
By GIANNI TRUZZI

All for one and one for all. So say Athos, Porthos, Aramis and ... Sabine?

Check your dog-eared copy of Alexandre Dumas' classic of intrigue and swordplay, "The Three Musketeers," but you won't find d'Artagnan's tomboy kid sister anywhere in there.

That's the creation of Ken Ludwig, whose action-packed adaptation opens Friday at Seattle Repertory Theatre. The swashbuckling production is directed by Kyle Donnelly with derring-do led by fight director Rick Sordelet.

Chatting by telephone from Washington, D.C., Ludwig explained that the embellishment was needed to create a focus for what he called "a big, sprawling comic book full of great mythic characters."

The challenge, he said, was to distill the book from a series of stirring events into something that functions as a play. Giving the eager recruit d'Artagnan a sister, it struck him, could make the hero more real.

"If he's loved by anyone as spunky and terrific as she is," Ludwig said, "then he's worth caring about."

The broadening of the potential audience by adding some girl power, he confessed, was far from his mind.

"It's a nice side benefit, it does make it more fun for girls as well as boys, but no, it wasn't my purpose."

For anyone unfamiliar with Dumas' romantic adventure (or the more than a dozen film versions, cartoon/anime adaptations, and two musicals), Gascony farmboy/swordsman d'Artagnan travels to Paris to join the elite Musketeers of the Guard at the court of Louis XIV. With his three comrades, he attempts to protect the queen from scandal, putting them at odds with the powerful Cardinal de Richelieu.

Originally written as a magazine serial, the episodes were published as a book in 1844. In his preface, Dumas pretends it is the true account of the life of Charles de Batz-Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan, a real (if less glamorous) historical figure. Dumas followed the wildly popular book with the sequels "Twenty Years After" and "The Vicomte de Bragelonne," carrying d'Artagnan's tale to his death at the Siege of Maastricht.

In Ludwig's account, Sabine shares her brother's ambition for glory, and travels with him to Paris disguised as his male servant.

Ludwig wrote this adaptation for England's Bristol Old Vic, commissioned for the Christmas season. Next month, his adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" opens in London's West End.

At first glance, the task might seem a stretch for Ludwig, who is best known for his comedies that hew to the fast-paced, dramatically steel-structured plays of playwrights like George S. Kauffman and Moss Hart. His works include the opera farce "Lend Me a Tenor," a stage adaptation of Howard Hawks' screwball comedy "Twentieth Century" and Broadway's "Moon Over Buffalo" for Carol Burnett.

Yet Ludwig is a scholar of his craft, finding the roots of modern comedy in Shakespeare and the 18th-century works of Goldsmith, Farquhar, O'Keefe and Sheridan.

"Swashbucklers and comedies have a lot in common," he said, noting their fast pace, and their employment of the same devices such as disguise and mistaken identity.

"There's a reason that 'Twelfth Night' has a duel in it," he observed, "and so does 'The Rivals.' "

It doesn't surprise him, then, that swashbuckling tales are loaded with laughs.

"They're jolly," he said. "When you think of Errol Flynn on the ship, holding onto the rigging, he's laughing."

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