Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood

The Sherwood Forest in the Flux Theatre Ensemble's delightful production of Adam Szymkowicz's Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood has its full complement of merry men--except most of them aren't actually men. They dress as men and pass as men, because that's the way things are done, but their sexual identities and orientations are considerably more complicated than back in Errol Flynn's day (or, at least, more complicated than people admitted back in Errol Flynn's day). You might think it would be difficult to find love when you don't even know each others' genders--and when you're busy robbing from the rich to give to the poor--but in fact it may be easier. In this Sherwood Forest, sexual ambiguity leads people to fall in love with each other's hearts and souls instead of the bodies they are packaged in.

Illustration: Kristy Caldwell

Love is the underpinning of Marian, but fighting for what's right is its substance. I don't know when Szymkowicz started writing the play, but the timing of this production is perfect. Amidst the madcap goings-on, wonderful duels, and grin-producing theatricality, there is always the serious business at hand: ridding the world of a self-centered, foolish, squeamish, idiot of a king whose life work is robbing from the poor to give to himself.

But I get ahead of myself here. First, it is a pleasure to walk into the theatre and see Will Lowry's attractive scenery, which wryly sets the tone for the evening ahead. Second, the "turn-off-your-cell-phone" announcement is actually funny. (Many try, but few succeed.) Third, and this is a big third, you are then presented with 95 minutes of first-class writing, acting, and directing. Particular kudos must go to director Kelly O'Donnell and fight director Rocio Mendez whose combined theatrical creativity provides the joy of a farce without a door in sight to be slammed.

Aaron Parker Fouhey, Kevin R Free, Becky Byers, Matthew Trumbull
Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum Theatrical Photography

Becky Byers is adorable and feisty as Marian/Robin, although she is a bit undercut by her Peter Pan-ish costume, which fights against her strength (the rest of the costumes, by Izzy Fields, are attractive and effective). Kevin R. Free, as Prince John, gives a wonderfully broad and funny performance that never tips over into overdone. Jack Horton Gilbert, as Little John, takes a potentially cliché "dumb-guy" role and gives it heart and humor, while still nailing all of the "dumb-guy" laughs. Also excellent are C. Bain, Alexandra Curran, Aaron Parker Fouhey, Mike Mihm, Nandita Shenoy, Matthew Trumbull, and Marnie Schulenburg (in other words, the whole rest of the cast).

[spoiler time]

Perhaps my favorite thing in Marian is that Robin Hood turns out not to be a individual but, rather, a role that is passed from person to person. In these days of rallies and petitions and phone calls and a truly frightening president, we all need to embrace our inner Robin Hoods.

[end of spoilers]

Marian only runs through February 11, so if you're going to go, and you should, move quickly. It's pay what you want. Click here for more information. And if you should happen to miss Marian, keep an eye out for the next Flux jam. I have seen 10 of their shows; they ranged from okay (just one) to superb (many). Do yourself a solid, and check them out.


Creative team not mentioned by name in review: Jodi M. Witherell, Production Stage Manager; Sol Crespo, Assistant Director; Rocio Mendez, Fight Director; Heather Cohn, Producing Director/Production Manager; Will Lowry, Scenic Designer; Izzy Fields, Costume Designer; Jessica Greenberg, Lighting Designer; Sara Slagle, Properties Designer; Sienna Gonzalez, Lighting Design Assistant; William Peterson, Lighting Design Assistant; Stephen R Scheide, Fight Assistant; Lauren Girouard, Scenic Assistant; Sound Designer: Jacob Subotnick; Marketing Director / Photography: Isaiah Tanenbaum; PR/Communications: Gus Schulenburg; Postcard Design: Kristy Caldwell.

Wendy Caster
(press ticket, third row)

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