BWW Review: Marion Steals THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD
The Heart of Robin Hood
Written by David Farr, Directed by Gisli Örn Gardarsson, Music by Poor Old Shine, Lyrics by Poor Old Shine and David Farr; Set Design, Börkur Jónsson; Costume Design, Emma Ryott; Lighting Design, Björn Helgason; Sound Design, Jonathan Deans; Music Director, Kris Kukul; Fight Director, Joe Bostick; Associate Director/Aerial Consultant, Selma Björnsdóttir; Production Stage Manager, Mahlon Kruse
CAST (in alphabetical order): Moe Alafrangy, Daniel Berger-Jones, Claire Candela, Andrew Cekala, Jeremy Crawford, Jordan Dean, Zachary Eisenstat, Gisli Örn Gardarsson, David Michael Garry, Christina Bennett Lind, Laura Sheehy, Christopher Sieber, Louis Tucci, Katrina Yaukey, Damian Young
Performances through January 19 at American Repertory Theater, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA; Box Office 617-547-8300 or www.americanrepertorytheater.org
The simple explanation for the integral role of Maid Marion in The Heart of Robin Hood is that playwright David Farr has two daughters who complained to him about the way that women are portrayed in films and plays. However, as it turned out, assigning Marion the task of civilizing a wild, thieving, thuggish Robin Hood gives both characters more facets and results in a fresh, vibrant alteration of the oft-told tale. In combination with the athletic, revolutionary staging conjured up by Icelandic director Gisli Örn Gardarsson and his creative team, the onstage musical accompaniment by roots band Poor Old Shine, and a sprightly ensemble capable of amazing feats, the American Repertory Theater's new production of The Heart of Robin Hood closes out 2013 on a high note.
At first glance, Börkur Jónsson's set draws the eye to a pair of massive trees leading to a network of leaf-covered boughs that form a canopy overhead. The curved, upstage wall and the floor are carpeted with synthetic moss and dirt, and there's a small pond strategically located just off center stage. When the show begins, the set comes alive as the actors enter by sliding down the wall, swinging in on ropes, or emerging from previously unseen ramps and holes in the structure. If you dare to look away for a moment, the gasps or laughs from the audience will be a signal that you've missed something visual, and the ever-changing lighting design by Björn Helgason will point you in the right direction. Thousands of little white bulbs are laced among the leaves, and the openings in the floor and the wall often stream colored lights and fog, while spotlights are aimed at the stage from three sides and overhead.
Farr's rendition twists the legend of Robin Hood as we know it. He is not the noble hero who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Robin (Jordan Dean) and his merry men pilfer and plunder, keeping the spoils for themselves. They take the clothing of their victims, if there's any value in it, and brutalize or sometimes behead those who dare to travel through their territory in Sherwood Forest. In spite of his pronouncement forbidding women in camp, Robin is smitten with Marion (Christina Bennett Lind), the daughter of a duke, when she and her servant Pierre (Christopher Sieber) stumble into their midst, but he sends her back to the castle she's trying to escape to avoid marrying the evil Prince John (Damian Young).