Robin Hood and Maid Marian Review - A Classic Folk Tale Comes to Life

 

Strawdog Theatre Company presents the second show of its 2015-16 Hugen Hall season, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, directed by Matt Pierce and adapted by Forks and Hope. Performed in verse and featuring original music by Austin Oie, this lively retelling of a classic tale in an intimate house is a testament to the ways in which live theatre can give old stories new life.

 

Caleb Probst as "Robin Hood"

 

The play opens on an England divided; King Richard is missing in action and while some remain loyal to him, others support his dishonest brother Prince John, who is ruling in his stead. We soon learn that Sir Richard Lea has borrowed a large sum of money to pay the ransom for his kidnapped son Walter, but is now facing the seizure of his family lands if he cannot pay the debt in time. Maid Marian might solve this problem by marrying the sordid Sheriff of Nottingham, but her heart belongs to Robin Hood, and besides, she has vowed never to marry until King Richard returns to give her away. Robin receives news that he has been outlawed by Prince John, and he and his men retreat to the woods, where they seek to correct injustices by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

 

(foreground L to R) Caleb Probst as "Robin Hood" and Kelsey Shipley as "Maid Marian”

 

As the title suggests, this is an adaptation that gives equal weight to Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and it is refreshing to see a fairy tale heroine onstage who has so much agency. More than just headstrong and good with a bow, Maid Marian has complex motivations and makes her own choices in the face of opposition from the men in her life.

 

Indeed, the treatment of gender in this production is smart and powerful. Robin Hood cites Prince John’s history of sexual assault as his main reason for hating the corrupt ruler, and Robin Hood’s own respect for women is praised as one of his virtues and is imitated by his men. The choice to cast women in the roles of Little John and Sir Richard Lea is an astute one, as well; Little John’s anxiety about the roles of men and women and Richard’s accusations that Marian is acting “foolish, or like a woman” might have read as misogynistic in the mouths of male actors, but instead become subversive, forcing us to question what it really means to be a “man” or a “woman.”

 

Amber Robinson as "Sir Richard Lea," Kelsey Shipley as "Maid Marian"

 

Of course, for all that the writing and casting are well done, the actors themselves must be given sufficient credit for their work. Suzanna Ziko is spectacular as Little John; she captures perfectly his mix of stiff bravado and softhearted shyness. Kelsey Shipley brings boldness and nuance to Maid Marian, while Caleb Probst’s charismatic Robin Hood will make you want to pack up and join his merry band in Sherwood Forest. Truthfully, there is not a weak actor in the show, and the entire ensemble must be commended for their hard work and skill.

 

(L to R) Andrew Bailes as "Prince John," Christian Stokes as "Sheriff of Nottingham," Addison Heimann as “Mercenary". On Floor: Caleb Probst as "Robin Hood"

 

The music for the show is quite enjoyable; Oie’s compositions have the feel of English folk songs while remaining relevant to the story, so that the music does not detract from but adds to the action happening onstage. Another highlight is the use of human actors to portray forest animals like nightingales and deer, in small moments which can only be described as charming. The show also features several spectacular sword fights, choreographed by Sam Hubbard, which are particularly thrilling in such an intimate house.

 

Strawdog Theatre’s Robin Hood and Maid Marian is a production worthy of the British folk hero himself. Get your tickets today.

 

Ticket Information

Dates: November 28 – December 29

Times: Saturdays at 4 p.m., Sundays at 12 p.m., and Monday and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

Location: Hugen Hall in Strawdog Theatre Company, 3829 N. Broadway Street.

Tickets: Single tickets are $15 and are currently on sale. Performances are recommended for children aged 10 years and older. Subscriptions, group, senior and student discounts are also available. Tickets may be ordered online at the Strawdog website or by calling OvationTix toll-free: 866.811.4111

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