play review: the heart of robin hoodMaybe it’s me, but I just could not get into the Heart of Robin Hood, the American Repertory Theater production playing now through January 19, 2014 at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge.   It could be that I just wouldn’t allow my inner child out of the closet, that I am too “grown up,” that I am too serious, but anyone who has read any of my recent posts (say, for example, this one) might beg to differ.  I’m as immature as the next BA50. And I don’t think I should have to work that hard to let out my inner child.

And try I did.  I was energized at the beginning by the music of Poor Old Shine, a jubilant Connecticut band with a “grassroots ethos,” with a banjo, madolin, accordion, guitar, pump organ, bass and drums. But I also wondered what the heck they were doing in Sherwood Forest, and towards the end of the play, I just wanted them to stop.

This production turns the story of Robin Hood we are all familiar with from our youth, on its head.  It is directed by Icelandic director Gisli Orn Gardarsson, and it is non-stop action and full of acrobatics (Gardarsson has a gymnastics background.)  The set is fantastic- a real Sherwood Forest playground, with a gigantic tree lit by thousands of bulbs towering over the audience, two gigantic slides, ropes hanging from the ceiling, a pond, holes in the mossy forest bottom that let the actors magically appear and disappear.

Robin Hood, played by Jordan Dean, and his “merry” men, are not very merry in this production.  Robin Hood is a mean stiff (who is also a bit stiff in his acting) with fabulous wash-board abs (I enjoyed those.) In this production, Robin Hood steals from the rich, pockets the money, and bans women from his group because they distract the men.  The heroine is the beautiful, virtuous, and all around wonder woman Marion, played by Christina Bennett Lind, who is able to join the Robin Hood gang dressed as a lad.  She is the force that in the end saves the day and transforms Robin Hood, but I found her more irritating than likable.

I really enjoyed the performance of Marion’s wonderfully effeminate valet Pierre, played by Christopher Sieber, who becomes “Big Peter” (get it?) when he is incognito with Martin in the forest.  I admit it– I chuckled from time to time at the humor, but it is best be described as “silly.”

On the whole, although the story was re-created, I found it predictable and annoying. I wanted to kick the clarinet playing mute, and I wanted to mute many of the actors.  I might have liked it better if I brought a few young ones with me instead of my mother, but then again, they might have ended having nightmares from the scene where they cut out the monk’s tongue (they might have done without that.)  I’m not really sure who this production was supposed to appeal to, but unless you are a 10 year old boy, I think you can skip this one.

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