Legend Making at the Heart of 'Robin Hood'
WEB-EXCLUSIVE: The Maverick Theater's retelling of this classic tale reaches for reality.
|The Legend of Robin Hood
Through April 14, 2012
Fridays, 8 p.m.
Saturdays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton
For ages 13 and up
An arrow is snapped in two by the hero a few minutes into The Legend of Robin Hood. The quick dismissal of the archetypical prop of any Robin Hood retelling says everything you need to know about the Maverick Theater’s latest production.
It is a smart and necessary solution to the potentially horrifying theatrical and liability problem of actors performing archery live on stage.
More importantly, it underlies the basic point writer and director Nathan Makaryk is trying to make in what is ultimately the great strength of the production, his script. As implied in the title, this is about legends and how they are made.
The script takes a tip or two from the recent Russell Crowe Robin Hood movie, but also explores the idea of myth-making in interesting and challenging new ways. Robin Hood is one of the two great myths of the English-speaking world (alongside King Arthur and the story of Camelot) and never seems to cease being retold somewhere. Each represents an amalgamation of different real-life and fictional characters, political history and the hopes, dreams and political perspectives of those who sent the legends forth centuries ago. And of course, each also has to contend with Hollywood’s own history of myth-making.
Throughout the play, there are references to how the exploits of the denizens of Sherwood Forest – real or not – have taken on a power and life of their own, even if Robin isn’t exactly who the merry men or perhaps the audience want him to be.
And here is the great test to Makaryk’s play. The production is stocked with members of the Maverick’s reliable company of players in supporting roles, including Michael Keeney as William de Wendenal, Scott Keister as Guy of Gisbourne, Glenn Freeze as Baron Roger de Lacy, and David Chorley as William de Ferrers. But at first, Frank Tyron seems miscast as Robin of Locksley. He is certainly not Errol Flynn, but mercifully, not Kevin Costner either.
As Makaryk sees Robin, he is a reluctant, hobbled and war-weary veteran of King Richard’s army. And it’s as accurate a characterization as any, since there is no historical record that says in fact what he was like, if he even existed as one or several different men. The casting is a big gamble though, especially when Tyron seems overshadowed by Keeney in their scenes together or a bit mild-mannered with his men.
Robin seems always at odds with himself, his men and the cause he has already become famous for. In this way, he’s more The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit than a swashbuckling action hero and if you’re willing to entertain that idea, Tyron is an interesting alternative.
The production is also aided by clever staging and set design, and moves along at a very breezy pace despite an almost three-hour running time (including intermission). The play closes with some refreshing surprises that hammer home the idea of how legends are made and leave you feeling that after 900 years or so, Robin might still have legs.