Orange County Theatre Reviews

(Photo courtesy: Paul Luna)

Written by Daniella Litvak 

Century after century people continue to love Robin Hood–the noble outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, while outwitting the corrupt Prince John with his archery skills and band of Merry Men. There are an innumerable amount of Robin Hood stories out there. They are all told in a variety of ways with tone varying from cynical to idealistic. 

The Heart of Robin Hood could be described as a combination of a superhero’s origin and a Beauty and the Beast story. One feature that sets The Heart of Robin Hood apart from its fellows is the fact that Maid Marian (Katie Ludlam) assumes the role of the play’s protagonist, and Robin (Wyatt Logan) is the deuteragonist. When we first meet Robin Hood, he already has the thieving thing down pat but is not much of a hero (a nod to his characterization in the earliest Robin Hood stories). He is rough, mean, and does not spare much empathy for anyone not a part of his band of Merry Men.  This group consists of Will Scarlet (Prince Ross), Much Miller (Ron Gutterman), and Little John (Bryan Connolly). Meanwhile Prince John (Michael Reehl) is plotting to usurp the throne, and his growing tyranny is bringing unbearable levels of misery to the people of Nottingham. Marian is not going to stand for this. Roping in her best friend and castle fool, Pierre (Joshua Bates), Marian is determined to show Robin how an outlaw can be honorable and restore justice to the land.

Although there is comedy, the first act definitely has a grim and gritty reboot vibe to it. There are quite a few moments that feel disturbingly relevant to today’s world, and some scenes would not be out-of-place in a production of King Lear. The second act has more of a good ol’ time, swashbuckling ‘n shenanigans feel. Personally I prefer the second act because it is so much more fun– the heroes live up to their potential, and the finale is rousing. The tonal shift between the acts is a little jarring, but it feels appropriate given the characters’ internal journeys. There are also some scenes —while charming in their own right —that could have been cut to tighten things up a bit.

Everyone brings a lot vivacity to their roles and deserves their time in spotlight. Joshua Bates and Hannah Rhode (as Alice —Marian’s brainless sister) are really good at making their characters entertaining in roles that could have been annoying if done wrong. Abbey Oxley as Plug the Dog gets one of the biggest laughs of the night, and Joseph Cobian as Jethro Summers gets some very effective dramatic moments. Also very impressive is how good all the actors are at the physical demands of their roles. The play features a lot of climbing, sliding, fighting and some dancing, all of which heightened the drama and kept things dynamic. Juliet Parker and the band Moonlight Graham deserve recognition as well for their work in providing the show’s live sound effects and music respectively.

The costumes are a joy to look at. They are bright, colorful, and contain a lot of detail to marvel over. There is costuming for a variety of social classes, and the outfits for the animals are well designed. Plus Guy of Gisborne (Nathan Daraban) wears a horse-headed helm that’s great. Since disguises and mugging are a big part of the plot, it is nice seeing the costumes being incorporated into story instead of being relegated to decoration. In contrast the set is not the prettiest, but it makes up points in ingenuity. Using a backdrop as a slide is clever. Furthermore, the design is effective when it comes to at making big statements with small details.

The Heart of Robin Hood is an amalgamation of nearly every type of Robin Hood story. It is fun and serious. It is realist and romantic. It may be a bit overstuffed, but that doesn’t stop it from being a rollicking good time.    

April 27 – May 6, 2017

Great Show

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