Most of the attention in a theatre review usually goes to the actors and the strong eleven person cast of Young Robin Hood certainly deserves praise. Yet the success of this world premiere production at Round House theatre demands a discussion of the contributions of two talented individuals, playwright Jon Klein and director Derek Goldman.
Round House Theatre has gone through a period in which it commissioned several adaptations for both young and adult audiences. Many were mixed successes due to difficulty of the source material, which could be too internal and psychological (Lord of the Flies) or too complicated in their exposition (A Wrinkle in Time). With Young Robin Hood, however, Round House wisely chose a familiar story that easily lends itself to adaptation as proven by numerous film, television, and stage productions.
While any production of the popular story is likely to entertain, Klein makes some wonderful additions. First, he provides a layered story that builds upon the familiar confrontation between Robin Hood (Joe Eisenberg) and allies against the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham (Mitchell Hébert). He includes thoughtful educational themes involving fairness, equality under the law, and when to stand your ground against unjust government actions.
At the start of the story young Robin is a carefree young man who enjoys playing in the forest with his more socially prominent friend Philip (Davis Chandler Hasty), son of Guy of Gisbourne (JJ Kacznski). Klein has a nice ear for the dialogue of teenagers and is skilled at demonstrating the awkwardness of young love when Marian (Laura C. Harris) starts to come between the young friends.
Sixteen year-old Robin is being raised by an adoptive father, William Fitzooth (Craig Wallace). Fitzooth serves as the King’s Forester under appointment by King Richard, who has been absent from the land for four years fighting a Crusade in the Holy Land. Wallace makes a model father – a strong, concerned man who struggles to educate Robin on when to hold his tongue and avoid a fight.
Fitzooth himself resists authority by assisting a miller’s family (Sean Silvia, Allie Villarreal, and Kimberly Schraf), who is living in Nottingham Forest after the miller was murdered and his mill was burned because he could not pay the ruinous taxes imposed under Prince John. That act of kindness inevitably creates a conflict between Fitzooth and the Sheriff.
Klein creates a wonderfully entertaining dramatic foe. The villainy of the Sheriff is enhanced by his pointed sense of humor. This Sheriff is frequently amused by the individuals who initially dare to question his decisions. The charming cadences that Hébert gives to phrases such as “harsher consequences” and “sudden death” make him far more compelling than the standard villain.
Yet another inspired addition is adding the versatile Emma Crane Jaster as Marian’s falcon Diana and the “Spirit of Sherwood Forest,” along with several other animals, serving as an all-purpose forest sprite. Finally, Jeff Allin plays an Abbott and the long-missing King Richard.
The one person who can get under the Sheriff’s skin is his daughter Marian. Instead of the classic passive Marian, Klein imbues her with an independent spirit, spunk, and an unwavering belief in fairness. Laura C. Harris adds Marian to a growing list of impressive characterizations in area productions. Whether she is taunting Robin with a teasing voice or resisting her father with a firmly set jaw, her Marian is captivating.
Young Robin Hood
Closes December 30, 2012
Round House Theatre – Bethesda
4545 East-West Highway |
2 hours with 1 intermission
Tickets: $26 – $53
Children’s tickets: $10 – $15
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Young Robin Hood is played out under the experienced guiding hand of director Derek Goldman. He has assembled a talented creative team which enhances and elevates the story in every aspect. Scenic Designer Misha Kachman’s set features not only a towering central tree, but also an assortment of poles, ladders, footwalks, and bridges that serve as an excellent setting for the play’s action. Said action includes several convincing and entertaining fight scenes (Casey Kaleba, fight choreographer.)
The costumes (Ivania Stack) are well-conceived. Robin, his father, and other forest denizens fit naturally in the forest with their predominantly green and brown clothes, while the nobility wears more colorful, tailored outfits. The Sheriff is a standout in black and gold, suitable manifestations of his villainy and greed.
Matthew M. Nielson incorporates several entertaining sound effects worthy of radio theatre. Director Goldman even gives scene changes a sense of magic.
Round House Theatre’s world premiere of Young Robin Hood is virtually flawless. It has adventure, comedy, romance, and a satisfying conclusion and is beautifully rendered in a skillful production. It is as well-written and entertaining as any family-friendly production this reviewer has ever seen. In every respect, Young Robin Hood hits the bull’s-eye.
Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Young Robin Hood . Written by Jon Klein . Directed by Derek Goldman .
Featuring Jeff Allin, Laura C. Harris, Davis Chandler Hasty, Mitchell Hébert, Joe Isenberg, Emma Jaster, JJ Kaczynski, Kimberly Schraf, Sean Silvia, Allie Villarreal, and Craig Wallace . Scenic designer: Misha Kachman, Costume designer: Ivania Stack, Lighting designer: Kenton Yeager, Composer/sound designer: Matthew M. Nielson, Props master: Andrea Moore, Fight choreographer: Casey Kaleba, Choreographer: Emma Jaster, Stage manager:Maribeth Chaprnka.
Produced by Round House Theatre . Reviewed by Steven McKnight