Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
American Reparatory Theatre’s The Heart of Robin Hood is certainly not your Disney “Robin Hood.” Written by David Farr and directed by Gisli Orn Gardarsson, The Heart of Robin Hood offers a fun new twist on a classic tale. This rendition offers death-defying acrobatics, long and elaborate fight sequences, cross-dressing, murder, live music, and a focus on Marion as the central character of the show. The American Reparatory Theatre’s Robin Hood is enjoyable to watch, despite its self-indulgence (perhaps the show’s only pitfall).
Robin Hood seems a completely 180 from director Gardarsson’s last Boston production, Metamorphosis, which was performed at ArtsEmerson this past spring. Despite their differences in content, this piece certainly bears Gardarsson’s stamp: both shows highly utilize acrobatic feats as means of motivating action. In Robin Hood, the brave feats of Robin (Jordan Dean) and his “Merry Men” (Jeremy Crawford, Zachary Eisenstat, and, at this performance, Gardarsson) dazzle and delight the crowd, giving this piece a much more playful tone than the contemplative Metamorphosis.
Given the recent success of the A.R.T’s acrobatic revival of Stephen Schwartz’s classic Pippin, the acrobatic tricks do come off as a bit self-referential, but the skill of the performers does not cease to amaze. Given the incredible successes of both Pippin and Metamorphosis, The Heart of Robin Hood certainly has big shoes to fill. It is much more enjoyable, however, to view The Heart of Robin Hood not in the light of either of the creative team’s previous works, but as a rather pastoral Shakespearean take on the classic tale.Set in a thrust style in a pastoral landscape, The Heart of Robin Hood reads very much like a Shakespearean comedy à la As You Like It. The actors clearly pick up on this Shakespearean feel, some rising to the task and others coming across as somewhat stilted.
Christopher Sieber as Marion’s dandy clown and confidant, Pierre, steals many a scene with his deft and graceful take on this challenging character. Sieber brings an otherwise forgettable role to the forefront of the play with a blend of subtle humor and believable dedication. Damian Young plays the sinister Prince John with a simultaneous bravado and insecurity befitting of the most classic fairy tale villain. Christina Bennett Lind as Marion struggles (perhaps over-indulged in the feisty nature of her character) with shouting many lines as if in an open-air stage. Gardarsson, filling in for Andy Grotelueschen as Much Miller, also seems to be performing to an outdoor crowd (or perhaps he is basking in the opening of the crowd-pleasing performance). As the show progresses, the acting becomes more solid throughout the cast, and the second act is much more thrilling and well-paced than the first.
The real star of the show, however, is Borkor Jonsson’s set. Complete with a floor-to-ceiling slide for entrances, dramatic opening bridges and secret holes for exits throughout the set, Jonsson’s Sherwood Forest is a character onto itself. Jonsson (who won the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design this year for his work on Gardarsson’s Metamorphosis) gives his signature style a playful twist in this new production. Another unexpected character in the show is Poor Old Shine, a roots band from Connecticut. Not only does the band underscore the show with original lyrics written in conjunction with Farr, but it also becomes a part of the show, interacting with both characters onstage and the audience.
The Heart of Robin Hood is a great holiday show for families and friends of all ages. Lighthearted and entertaining, it may not change your view on life, but it will certainly enchant and delight.
The Heart of Robin Hood runs until January 19.