Have you ever watched a comedian create a character so grotesque you think you might be physically sick? That’s the crowning achievement of narrative sketch duo the Pajama Men’s latest project, an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s famous novel that’s as faithful to the source material as, say, the 1993 Chris O’Donnell movie of the same name. Which is to say: not very.
Louche, chain-smoking young farmhand D’Artagnan heads to Paris to seek his fortune, where he falls in with the titular three members of the king’s guard. They band together to defeat the nefarious schemes of the King’s advisor (and secret rival) Cardinal Richelieu, who’s plotting to disgrace the Queen with the aid of femme fatale Milady de Winter.
It’s Shenoah Allen’s Richelieu who provokes feelings of extreme queasiness, rendered as an obese, squelching mass who’s equal parts Jabba the Hutt and Monty Python’s Mr Creosote. He’s far and away the best thing about the show; aside from D’Artagnan, Milady and a trusty centaur named Tony (whose campy shtick gradually wears thin), none of the characters are particularly memorable, though there is a steady stream of giggles throughout the show.
The best Pajama Men shows succeed by stringing together short, bizarre sketches that suddenly cohere into a previously undetectable narrative. By picking a fairly well known story for their first adaptation, they’ve robbed themselves of their greatest strength. This show’s biggest non-Cardinal laughs come from those unexpected diversions – one jump cut to two unimpressed audience members is a hoot – but it’s a step down from the giddy heights of previous PJ shows. In addition to ‘Musketeers’, they’re doing a looser, more improv-based run of ‘Pterodactyl Nights’ elsewhere this Fringe – here’s hoping it yields some new, original material for them to develop into next year’s show.