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REVIEW: THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD—The Electric Company Theatre @ The Muck

Updated: Jun 17

They Don't Call Him Hood for Nothing!


The Heart of Robin Hood is the only muscle that doesn't get a thorough workout in the new, athletic adaptation of the famous English legend currently playing at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center right now. The Electric Company Theatre, headed up by virtuoso couple Brian Johnson and Callie Prendiville-Johnson (along with a brawny cast and crew) once again masters the landscape at the Muck to offer one of the most entertaining nights of the season so far.


The show is slated to run in the garden ampitheater from June 2nd through June 26th. It is here that the notorious rogue-hero Robin Hood (Wyatt Logan) and his band of outlaws steal from the rich, creating a fearsome reputation among those who dare to travel through the mighty Forest of Sherwood. But they do not share their spoils with the poor and are unloved by the people, who must also pay unfair taxes to the evil Prince John (Bobby Gonzalez) as he plots to steal his brother's crown. In this time of chaos and fear, it is down to the Lady Marion (Jacqueline Alberto) to summon the courage to boldly protect the poor and convince the aloof Robin that he must listen to his heart if they are to save the country.


Jacqueline Alberto and Wyatt Logan in Electric Company Theatre’s Production of The Heart of Robin Hood. Playing from June 2 – June 26 at Muckenthaler Cultural Center.

But what she and her trusty, quip-ready, clown-servant Pierre (Michael Reehl, playing charmingly to the cheap seats, and bringing Comedy Central-like joke machine flamboyance to the role) find instead of a dashing knight in shining armor, is a hard-hearted Robin who simply steals – and who won't allow ladies into his not-so-merry band because of some balderdash about them making men "rash and unreliable."


So it’s a misogynistic Robin, begging to be humanized, demanding that the Merry Men be a Women-hater’s Club (right out of The Little Rascals) robbing even the poor, who are already up to their quivers in taxes, without any sense of rectitude.


Callie Prendiville-Johnson and Bobby Gonzalez in Electric Company Theatre’s Production of The Heart of Robin Hood. Playing from June 2 – June 26 at Muckenthaler Cultural Center.

What we get is a fusion of Shakespearean allusion and Icelandic athleticism. Farr's revisionist take on the legend is to instead make Marion the protagonist. Anxious to rescue the thuggish Robin from a life of crime and escape the predatory clutches of Prince John, Ms. Alberto’s Marion does a quick gender-switch and flees to the forest disguised in male attire, assuming the name of “Martin of Sherwood” and forming her own gang of philanthropic filchers.


This brings her into direct competition with Robin – and the plot hinges on whether the two will fight each other to the death, or join forces to stop Prince John from murdering the cute children of a tax-evading subject.


Michael Reehl and Jacqueline Alberto in Electric Company Theatre’s Production of The Heart of Robin Hood. Playing from June 2 – June 26 at Muckenthaler Cultural Center.

Robin's fascination with the androgynous “Martin” has obvious echoes of “As You Like It.” And if you look hard, it’s also a beguiling mix of “All’s Well...” ”Twelfth Night” and even “Babes in the Wood, another traditional English children’s tale where much of the action hinges on the need to save a pair of siblings from an untimely death. In this case a nominally similar plot featuring Zachery Ninomiya, and Sierra Tolentino Chavez.

 

Marion is the idealized figure of liberal piety, the best man and the best woman combined, while her greedy, narrow-minded sister Alice serves as a nice farcical counterpart. The story, in its use of pop culture anachronisms, self-conscious references to theatricality and dependence on Marion’s sidekick (think a very funny version of Touchstone) seems to be drawing heavily on Disney conventions. Without question, all of this cartoon mayhem and romance is likable, enhanced by a select group of gymnastically adept players, and complemented by a down-home indie-style band. Luckily, the performers are not only lusty but nimble, not to mention compelling caricatures.


Paul Stanko in Electric Company Theatre’s Production of The Heart of Robin Hood. Playing from June 2 – June 26 at Muckenthaler Cultural Center.

This is actually fairly typical faire for David Farr. If you’ve read anything by the distinctly versatile writer, most famous for the BBC series “Spooks,” an adaption of Kafka's “Metamorphosis,” “A Dead Body in Taos,” and of course, this reimagined panto version of Robin Hood and his band of do-gooding men, you may find his style normally quite morbid. Interestingly enough this is considered a family show (with a difference), although you may still see squeamish adults flinching at some of the mayhem and goings-on. The children, however, seem to be having a rollicking good time.


It's pretty robust stuff actually, and there are even a number of topical references. Marion's absent dad, busy fighting in foreign lands, is engaged in "some faraway war that seems to make less and less sense to him." And Marion laments for an England where "forests are stolen and turned into game parks, entertainment for the chattering classes."


Hannah Hart and Jacqueline Alberto in Electric Company Theatre’s Production of The Heart of Robin Hood. Playing from June 2 – June 26 at Muckenthaler Cultural Center.

But the politics are soon sacrificed to the idea of Robin's redemption by a determined woman. So, even if Farr's narrative occasionally seems a bit too self-conscious in its parliamentary point-making, its browbeating of the little guy, or its nods to the Bard, I assure you it does deliver the goods.


This light-hearted lark is staged with such verve, invention, copious amounts of foil work, and so much good humor (with several characters playing to the cheap seats) that it is impossible not to surrender to it. A few citables in this topflight cast of marauders, jackrollers and highwaymen are Bobby Gonzalez’ Prince John, offering such a realistic display of rasping, decadent villainy, all while putting a fancy aristo spin on every sardonic snarl (Prince John wants Marion for himself). And Callie Prendiville-Johnson, who brilliantly portrays Alice, Marion’s crafty and devious younger sister. Conversely, Alice is a "two-faced harridan" and wants power... and John.


Miles Henry is a natural Little John, and Hannah Hart, who plays an ever-resourceful Plug the Dog, the Summers’ family pet, is endearing with simply a leather mask as a costume. You almost want to go over and scratch her head.


Other swashbuckling honorable mentions, several playing multiple parts, include Paul Stanko, Nicholas Diaz, Ace Christensen as Makepeace, Christian De La Torre, Walter Gray IV, Kyle Hayes, Natalia Montgomery, Ellen Arroyo, Paul Stanko, Ellen Arroyo, Jerry Zou, Jay Piper, Miles Henry and Natalia Montgomery.


THE ELECTRIC COMPANY THEATRE PRESENTS: THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD by DAVID FARR; MUCKENTHALER CULTURAL CENTER. Directed by BRIAN JOHNSON; Choreographer NATALIE OGA; Scenic Designer LUKAS GARBERG; Costume Designer CHRISTINE LOGAN; Fight Choreography MICHAEL POLAK; Stage Manager ZOE KINNE; Assistant Stage Manager CAMILE VARGAS; Intimacy Coordinator CALLIE PRINDIVILLE JOHNSON; Lighting Designer MATT MANKIEWICZ; Wigs and Beards KAT SCOTT; Scenic Construction KERRY UFHOLTZ; Running Crew LUKAS GARBERG & KAYLA BEINING; Band THE ARCHERS, FEATURING MUSIC BY BALLROOM THIEVES.


CAST: MICHAEL REEHL as Big Peter/Pierre; WYATT LOGAN as Robin; JACQUELINE ALBERTO as Lady Marion; BOBBY GONZALEZ as Despicable Prince John; CALLIE PRENDIVILLE-JOHNSON as Alice; ZACHERY NINOMIYA & SIERRA TOLENTINO CHAVEZ as Jethro & Sarah Summers; HANNAH HART as Plug; WALT GRAY IV; PAUL STANKO; ELLEN ARROYO; JERRY ZOU; JAY PIPER; KYLE HAYES; MILES HENRY; ACE CHRISTENSEN; NATALIA MONTGOMERY; CHRISTIAN DE LA TORRE; “THE ARCHERS”—led by WESLEY CHAVEZ, featuring ROB BETHANCOURT, JOSH IRONS-RODRIGUEZ, MIKE MANZER, DANNY KIMES & CALLIE PRENDIVILLE-JOHNSON.


Performances are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays at 7PM, June 4th through June 26th. For ticket information and seating: www.electriccompanytheatre.org/

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report

 

 



Photo Credits: Dave Smithson; Katie Mooney











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