Initial references to the character Robin Hood are not found in historical documentation per se, but rather on the rolls of various English Justices from the 13th century. The legend of the able archer and swashbuckling swordsman known for “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor,” nevertheless has captured the popular imagination ever since the 1200s.Even William Shakespeare makes mention of Robin Hood in his 16th century play, Two Gentleman of Verona: “By the bare scalp of Robin Hood’s fat friar, this fellow were a king in our wild faction.” The Bard also references Robin Hood in the comedy As You Like It: “Already in the forest of Arden, and many more merry men with him; and they live like the old Robin Hood of England.”
Now, subsequent to various film versions (with actors ranging from Errol Flynn to Sean Connery to Kevin Costner to Russell Crowe in the role of Robin Hood), along with several spoofs and send-ups (see Mel Brooks’ Men in Tights), The Legend of Robin Hood has been reinvigorated by Nathan Makaryk’s latest scripting and staging of this hoary tale of wealth redistribution and the questions it raises and the consequences it yields (at Fullerton’s Maverick Theater, through April 14).
Directed by Makaryk with an emphasis on atmospherics (Mararyk also designed the inventive set – which, along with David Chorley’s rich soundscape and Heidi Newell’s earth-toned costuming, lend to this “Robin Hood” a visceral effect that is never less than enchanting), Robin Hood is a two-and-a-half-hour journey deep into the imperfect past of English speaking people.
Indeed, between the mesmerizing fight choreography (also by Mararyk), and production values as high as the tree tops in Sherwood Forest, this Robin Hood offers action and adventure that easily transcends a rather painstaking plotline. It is a marvelous accomplishment to witness 17 performers traverse the small stage of the Maverick Theater, all the while propelling the drama forward and conveying the themes of equity, justice, and sacrifice that have long been associated with the Robin Hood legend.
In an extraordinary cast, Glenn Freeze is first among equals in his textured portrayal of Baron Roger de Lacy, a perplexed sheriff of Nottinghamshire. As Robin, Frank Tryon at first appears to be a flaccid-faced dandy, but Tyron’s embodiment of Robin’s courage, charisma, and populist inclinations defy the character’s aristocratic demeanor and landholding heritage. Surprisingly, Tryon’s take on Robin becomes immediately credible.
Moreover, Andrea Dennison-Laufer’s Lady Marion is a lovely emblem of femininity’s force and influence. In fact, there’s not an actor here whose performance is less then serviceable, with several players displaying impressive stage skills. Larry Creagan is spot-on as the burly-bodied and huge-hearted, John Little (a name often reversed to Little John in the ballads and fables of the day); Michael Keeny is convincing as the complex William de Wendenal; Jacob Hunter is movingly intense as Will Scarlet (Will’s fate is an component of the play’s surprising denouement); and, as the deadly Guy of Gisbourne, Scott Keister is menacingly magnetic.
In the medieval era, as in our present-day period, each of us see the righteousness of our positions – without often acknowledging or even necessarily understanding how those positions are preordained by the conditions of class and consciousness to which we are subjected. Experiencing this live, onstage interpretation of The Legend of Robin Hood may serve as a meditation on the importance of social justice and economic enfranchisement. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, et al, are you listening?
The Legend of Robin Hood continues at the Maverick Theater – 110 East Walnut Avenue, Fullerton – through April 14. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with a 3 p.m. Saturday matinee. For reservations, dial (714) 526 – 7070. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.mavericktheater.com.