The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Heart of Robin Hood
Gowned or doublet-ed up, Lind's Marion is a game and spirited anchor of Robin Hood at the Wallis Annenberg Center of the Performing Arts. But by no means is this actor the evening's sole delight. The technical frills and sheer theatricality of this merry and all-age-friendly Hood make the production from Iceland's Vesturport theater company an evening of wall-to-wall enchantment.
The production's other star is a wall, a massive sloping green monolith created by scenic designer Borkur Jonsson down which cast members are perpetually sliding, shimmying, and luging to make their entrances (one waggish audience member on opening night noted that rug burn tolerance was probably a prerequisite to being cast). When not using the slope, Robin and his men tend to arrive from above, dropping spider-like while twisted up in ropes. Between the wall, the ropes, and a hole that players are perpetually jumping into, this occasionally feels like Sherwood Forest a la Cirque du Soleil.
No complaints there. The tale of the woods-dwelling outlaw Robin Hood can always benefit from a reboot, and Vesturport's effort does just that. The basic conceit here is that, pre-Marion, Robin (Luke Forbes) and his men Much Miller (Kasey Mahaffey), Will Scarlett (Sam Meader) and the recently recruited Little John (Jeremy Crawford) steal from the rich and keep the loot for themselves, giving no thought to the poor. These men may be merry, but they shun women and aren't above murdering people who cross them. When a disguised Marion joins the gang masquerading as the benevolent brigand Martin of Sherwood and when the already treacherous Prince John (Eirik del Barco Soleglad) imperils a couple of children, well, Robin will need to find his heart and transform from Hood to good.
In this endeavor, Marion is both the agent of change and a character in need of rescue. With her father off fighting the Crusade and her shallow younger sister Alice (Sarah Hunt) steamed because she can't marry until big sister is hitched, a bored and lonely Marion heads for the forest with her servant Pierre (Daniel Franzese) as a reluctant traveling companion. Together the new bandits Martin and "Big Peter" educate the Hood brigands in the art of socially responsible banditry, which means the poor get a cut and orphaned kids Jethro and Sarah Summers (Gavin Lewis and Lily Rose Silver) are protected at all costs. Prince John (Eirik Del Barco Soleglad), who is hell bent on marrying Marion, is a dangerous adversary.
Directed by Gisli Orn Gardarsson and Selma Bjornsdottir with a mostly American cast, the Wallis production is big on physical business and comic hijinks. Fight Director Joe Bostick's infuses the bouts with plenty of artful swashbuckling (with Jeremy Crawford's Little John often ingeniously in the mix). There's a terrific visual bit that finds Marion attending confession with Robin disguised as a priest and his men positioned, whack a mole like, as clerics below him. Farr's play premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company and is clearly written with a slightly Python-esque sensibility that the Wallis company eagerly embraces.
Among the company members, those going broad shine especially brightly. Franzese is a bundle of half-foppish, half-heroic neuroses as Pierre/Peter. Hunt's petulant and man-hungry Alice of York makes the most of her scenes (and the production gives her a choice bit of epilogue business that Hunt plays while sopping wet). As Prince John, Soleglad's raging calls to mind some of Al Pacino's comic fulminations. Give the Norwegian actor his due: when called upon to be menacing, the man knows how to scare you.
Hood may do the rescuing and the self-improving, but The Heart of Robin Hood is Marion's play. Lind handles a blade, a comic riposte, romantic longing, and a damsel's gown all with equal skill. In this wacky, sometimes lush and always rollicking evening, she deservedly wins Robin's heart. And ours.
Search CurtainUp in the box below
The Heart of Robin Hood
Written by David Farr
Directed by Gisli Orn Gardarsson & Selma Bjornsdottir
Cast: Moe Alfrangy, Jeremy Crawford, Patrick de Ledebur, Luke Forbes, Huge Fowler, Daniel Franzese, Paige Herschell, Sarah Hunt, Lize Johnston, Jake Justice, Leonard Kelly-Young, Gavin Lewis, Christina Bennett Lind, Kasey Mahaffy, Sam Meader, Ian Merrigan, Tennyson Morin, Lily Rose Silver, Salka Sol, Eirik del Barco Soleglad, Jeff Verghies and Patrick Woodall
Scenic Design: Borkur Jonsson
Costume Design: Emma Ryott
Lighting Design: Ken Billington & Ed McCarthy
Sound Design: Brian Hsieh
Fight Direction: Joe Bostic
Dialect Coach: Joel Goldes
Stage Manager: David Lober
Plays through December 17, 2017 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 746-4000, www.thewallis.org
Running time: One hour and fifty minutes with one 15 minute intermission
Reviewed by Evan Henerson
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):
Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted at http://curtainupnewlinks.blogspot.com to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter