BWW Review: Courage Fights For Kindness In First Stage World Premiere ROBIN HOOD
Enjoy an adventurous trip with First Stage and their singing Troubadour through the 14th century Sherwood Forest. In a collaboration with playwrights Joe Foust and John Maclay, Jeff Frank directs the world premiere Robin Hood--- complete with thrilling stage combat from the legendary anti-hero. This courageous Robin Hood "asked for donations" from the English Elite at the point of his sword, collected and then contributed to the poor surrounding him in England. Among Robin's following where those, merry men and women who wanted to participate in as Maclay says, "a rebellion against greed and corruption" in an attempt to right the wrongs in their world.
Frank, Foust and Maclay turn the stage into Robin Hood's playground through Jody Sekas' stage design and Melissa Torchia's costume design, which allows an extremely fluid and fast paced production. Geoffrey, a young performer Jack Burns from the Sherwood Forest cast, sings and strums Musical Director Jeff Schaetzke's original ballads playing the roving troubadour. His idiosyncratic lyrics make the audience laugh, as does the often contemporary, tongue in cheek humor throughout the play-often hilarious. While actor Dominique Worsley embodies a fierce, yet sympathetic Robin, Maclay's Sheriff of Nottingham and Foust's incomparable Archbishop of York stir their own brand of extraordinary humor and strength trying to capture "the Hood."
Foust also doubles as Fight Choreographer, technical skills which create the centerpiece to this legendary story when the merry band of youth try to apprentice alongside Robin The production also features the flashing staff of Little John, James Fletcher, and Friar Tuck, Tommy Novak, who complement the attractive and swashbuckling Maid Marian, Allie Babich. The powerful and playful Babich fences with her fierce feminine mystique and extols confidence to each apprentice in training: Elisabet, Anna Fitzsimmons, who decides "nets are the wave of the future" in highway robbery. Kate, Grace Berendt, and Joan, Taylor Loomans, complete the merry young women, along with Robin, learning teamwork throughout their adventures..
Nicholas Doermann's Much, a Frenchman among the English, adds pessimistic humor, where an obstacle becomes a strength because he knows an antidote to the Archbishop's drug that placed Little John, Friar Tuck and Robin Hood in harm's way. On a late Saturday afternoon in Todd Wehr Theater, the action fascinated a six year old sitting in the audience, attracted to the flashing sword's steal while wondering how "they" learned to fight like that. In the 90 minutes of action packed adventure plenty of word play complements the sword play to entertain any adults in the audience.
Clearly, the fun the two playwrights captured when writing the world premiere shines through loud and clear in this world premiere production, adding another leaf in the book of Theater for Young Audiences. At the heart of this wondrous, and sometimes forgotten from a modern audience's mind, the anti-hero Robin Hood inspires youth to believe they can make a difference through teamwork and understanding in their unique cultures.. Foust wrote with conviction in an internet interview: "We hope this play expands empathy into the world."
First Stage Associate Director and Director of Young Company John Maclay, now a man with numerous plays attached to his fertile imagination and moniker, certainly believes in the power of storytelling, theater and youth, per se, the playwrights' words: Never underestimate the power of art.
In this bewitching, dashing and daring Robin Hood, youths and adults will be reminded courage and teamwork reward the vigilance of righting wrongs in worlds, big or small. And most significantly, Maclay stresses kindness to all, enemy or friend, and emphasizes: "One major theme [in the play] is kindness. We believe in kindness. We hope that is a take away."
Believe in compassion, courage and kindness. Believe in becoming another hero, whether watching the wonderful, live action world premiere Robin Hood or as that take away into one's own individual Sherwood Forest. As Robin Hood taught his merry band: "Kindness can change the world."
First Stage presents another World Premiere ROBIN HOOD for their 30th Anniversary Season at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through March 12. For special events, information or tickets to the performance, please call: 414.273.7200 or www.firststage.org.