Everyone knows the story of Robin Hood, the heroic man who once made a name for himself by stealing from the rich in order to give to the poor. However, not many (at least not locally) have had the privilege of seeing this legend’s tale told in quite the same way it is in Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood. This hilarious yet profoundly and surprisingly relevant production takes a humorous, lighthearted, and somewhat farcical approach to the classic story. And, luckily for Triangle area residents, it can now be seen via PlayMakers Repertory Company, under the imaginative direction of Jessie Austrian.
From the start, the production’s great energy is clear. Even before the show, cast members mingled with audience members and projected a lively, enthusiastic vibe. At the opening of the production, The cast members sing a “wrap your mint” song to get the regular theatre introductions out of the way and to establish the fact that plenty of fourth-wall breaking will happen within the production.
It’s not just the fourth wall that gets broken here either. Ludwig’s script allows for a break in time and space, with his characters engaging in bawdy games of beer pong and slight modern references here and there. The script also features some hilarious and hilariously done “bad” sound effects, like a neighing girl to indicate a horse and a bottle crinkled in front of a microphone to indicate a cracking hand.
All of these effects are presented with the right energy and charisma to keep the silly script on just the right side of ridiculous. Not everything here is fun and games though. When the band of outlaws, all of whom have joined Robin Hood in his quest for good, take an oath to help those in need and create a world of equality, real power, especially in the troubled current climate, is felt rippling through the building.
While Ludwig’s perfectly balanced script is enough, in and of itself, to make for a great production, Austrian and her cast also go a long way in bringing this story perfectly from script to stage.
Austrian is not afraid to have fun with the unique environment that is the PlayMakers main stage. In fact, she turns it into a virtual playground. Her characters sit on steps, slide down banisters, and “jump” from high heights, making the show fast-moving, engaging, and a whole lot of fun.
Likewise, the actors here are obviously having a great time, as evidenced by the pep put into their roles. Joshua David Robinson is a likeable and endearing Robin Hood, effectively portraying the character at all ages and stages of life and personal growth.
Likewise, Dan Toot carries the story well via his narrative pieces, as well as his representation of Robin’s dear friend and confidant. There’s also Rishan Dhamija’s sweet performance as Little John, a character that Dhamija makes all the more likeable. However, every show needs a villain or a couple of them, and both Ray Dooley as Prince John and Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Sir Guy have just the right touches of evil and hilarity in their roles. It must also be noted that Cornell made the extra effort, before the show, to come out and share special interactions with some of the kids in the audience. Tristan Parks is also superbly fun to watch as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He even adds a touch of confliction (and sass!) to the role, making the character surprisingly likeable.
As for the ladies in the production, April Mae Davis makes for an endearing and engaging Deorwynn, a young woman who aids Robin Hood in his quest for righteousness for very personal reasons. In fact, she often outshines Christine Mirzayan’s Maid Marian, not an easy feat since Mirzayan also excels in her role, giving Maid Marian just the right amount of pluckiness and Robin Hood enamorment.
Stellar lighting, Hollywood-level costumes, and incredibly fun use of the space all add up to a performance that’s great for young and old alike. Even those who don’t love the classic Robin Hood tale will find childlike joy, accompanied by impressive precociousness, in this stunning piece.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents SHERWOOD: THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, with original music by the Red Clay Ramblers’ Jack Herrick, at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25-28, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 and 30 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/box-office/groups-and-special-events/.
2018-19 SEASON (Shifting Ground: Theatre That Moves): http://playmakersrep.org/season/2018-2019/
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood (2017 Old Globe Theatre of San Diego, CA comedy): http://www.kenludwig.com/robin_hood/robin_hood.php (official web page) and https://www.samuelfrench.com/p/62891/ken-ludwigs-sherwood-the-adventures-of-robin-hood/ (Samuel French Inc.).
Ken Ludwig (York, PA-born playwright and screenwriter): http://www.kenludwig.com/ (official website), https://playmakersrep.org/artists/ken-ludwig/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/ken-ludwig-7069 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0525024/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Ludwig (Wikipedia).
Jack Herrick (composer and music director): http://playmakersrep.org/artists/jack-herrick/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jack-herrick-70068 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0380606/ (Internet Movie Database).
Jessie Austrian (Brooklyn, NY director): https://www.jessieaustrian.com/ (official website), https://playmakersrep.org/artists/jessie-austrian/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jessie-austrian-487479 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3865649/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/JessieAustrian (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/jessieaustrian (Twitter page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.