Theatrically, 2017 has certainly been the year of the woman. And just to drive the point home The Wallis Annenberg is presenting a Robin Hood aerialist redux with Maid Marion as the badass heroine of the un-merriest of men.
Of course there is no golden lasso, bullet repelling cuffs or mythical mission, but there are swords and plenty of fighting in a gymnastical bad boys, good deeds frenzy. It’s mighty fun!
In The Heart of Robin Hood, written by David Farr and directed by Gisli Örn Gardarsson and Selma Björnsdóttir, of Icelandic theater company, Vesturport, Robin (Luke Forbes) is a selfish, woods-bound thug. So are the rest of his men. And Marion (Christina Bennett Lind) is a sharp-witted, seriously bored, semi-tomboy, caged in a stone castle, waiting for her beloved father, the Duke of York (Ian Merrigan), to return from the crusades – which isn’t going to happen any time soon.
Worse, she’s the eldest, the daughter of the most prominent duke in the land, of marriageable age and saddled with a younger sister Alice (Sarah Hunt), who’s dying to be courted by everyone, but who can’t marry until Marion does. No pressure there. Right? Who needs dancing, music lessons and pretty gowns when there’s fun to be had somewhere over the treetops.
Oh, how she’d love to roam free!
About that…well…she does. And more than disguise herself as a boy, dragging along her musical manservant Pierre (Daniel Franzese) for company, she sets herself up in competition with Hood and manages to obtain a notable reputation as benevolent thief, Martin of Sherwood. Martin who coincidentally steals from the rich and gives to the poor unlike her ruffian counterpart (who just steals), is also acclaimed by the people. They even come looking for him/her for salvation when King Richard’s vicious and sexually debase brother Prince John (Erik Del Barco Soleglad) sets up a new extortionary ‘Crusade Tax’. Marion is relishing her newfound freedom (and revenge on Robin for practically ignoring her as a woman). Robin’s getting no praise for anything. He’s pissed!
There are a couple of very large chinks, however. Prince John is determined to marry Marion. Marion’s realizing she’s got a ‘thing’ for Robin. And Robin and his band are trying to save Martin (and company) from certain torture and death. Pierre is pining for his face cream while trying to keep his mistress safe. Alice is absolutely enthralled by the villain…you can probably figure out where this madcap is going…
Marion, of course, is more apt to save herself. In fact, she practically saves everyone. And all’s well that ends well when daddy arrives back in town just in the nick of time. A happy ending for all but the bad guys. Of course! Were you thinking otherwise?
Did we happen to mention the set design? No? Well, let’s get to that. It’s extraordinary!
A death-defying, floor-to-rafters, 40 ft., canopy-dressed, slide/wall represents the forest of Sherwood, Marion’s castle and every other marked scene in the play. Actors regularly drop, extreme sports-style, from the ceiling to the stage, climb, and hang out on it, in addition to other set fixtures popping out of this vertical marvel. It is a character of its own that the already outstanding actors really get to play on. (And FYI – they only rehearsed on this apparatus one week before opening. Bravo that no one made it to the ER before opening night!)
The other highlight of the show, as if there weren’t enough, are the lively, beautiful songs led by Icelandic pop singer Salka Sól.
The Heart of Robin Hood is stunning and adventurous.
Cast: Luke Forbes, Sam Meader, Kasey Mahaffy, Jeremy Crawford, Christina Bennett Lind, Sarah Hunt, Daniel Franzese, Leonard Kelly-Young, Gavin Lewis, Lily Rose Silver, Eirik Del Barco Soleglad, Patrick Woodall, Ian Merrigan, Lize Johnston, Moe Alafrangy, Patrick De Ledebur, Paige Herschell.
The Band: Salka Sól, Hugo Fowler, Jake Justice, Tennyson Morin Jeff Verghis.
Musical Direction: Salka Sól
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes including a 15-minute intermission
Recommended Age: Adults of all ages and brave children.
All photos by Kevin Parry