My family had the opportunity to attend the Season Opening of Robin Hood, a “modern take on this classic tale,” as the promotional materials state. No corsets, and nary a “thee” or “thou” to be heard, but the source material pays homage to the oldest ballads, Disney’s animated version, and even Kevin Costner’s portrayal of the Prince of Thieves. Purists like myself need not fear…despite metal scaffolding and combat boots, the story is true to the spirit of Sherwood Forest.
Both the author (Greg Banks) and Childsplay specialize in small casts, and it was fun to discover which parts were played by the same actors. Clever costuming and expert help offstage made for pretty seamless transitioning between characters and scenes. The sets allowed for a great deal of activity and motion; well-choreographed swashbuckling and simulated archery kept the interest of older children while being tame enough not to frighten the younger ones. Reminiscent of the Keystone Cops and nearly every episode of Scooby-Doo ever created, this troupe certainly did yeoman’s work throughout the performance.
Although the evidence for a real Robin Hood may be ambiguous at best, the production conveys worthwhile educational value. Actual historical figures such as King Richard and Prince John survive the modernization process, and with a little bit of added background the unnamed “war” (Third Crusade) and misrule of England give a fuller picture of the place and time in which most Robin Hood stories are anchored. Ongoing narration by the players supports the funny and flippant dialogue and moves the plot along. As an English major, I appreciated the inclusion of challenging vocabulary. Robin, explaining to Much how they will rescue Will Scarlett, says, “We must use guile.” When Much replies, “What?” Robin restates: “Cunning.” Much is still stymied—“Don’t get it.” Robin cuts to the chase with, “We have to trick them,” and Much is finally in on the plan of attack.
Slapstick comedy…historical romance…audience participation…this performance has something for everyone. My children particularly liked the appearance and disappearance of Prince John in his bathtub full of gold, and the stuntman skills of the Sheriff of Nottingham at the end (no spoilers here!). The question and answer period following the show is always enjoyable, too. Don’t forget to shop the marketplace in the lobby for your foam swords, punk bracelets, Robin Hood books and autographed photos of the cast members.
Starring Andy Cahoon, Kate Haas, Jon Gentry, Eric Boudreau, Ricky Araiza and Keath Hall, Robin Hood runs every Saturday (1pm and 4pm) and Sunday (1pm) through October 6th. Backstage tours are available 9/21 and 10/5, and an ASL performance will be held 9/29.