‘Robin Hood’ at Elden Street Players’ Theatre for Young Audiences by Julia L. Exline

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FOUR STARS
Elden Street Players’ Theatre for Young Audiences presents Robin Hood, a childhood favorite about a lively outlaw and his gang of followers, whose life of adventure and merriment is threatened by the plots of an ambitiously evil Lady Merle and her bumbling sheriff. Directed by Sue Klein, this is a tried-and-true production that appeals to both boys and girls—perfect for an outing involving a sizeable number of children, as there is something for all tastes!

Mary Frances Dini, Andrew Lent, Kirsten Burt, and Ann Kutyna. Photo by Doug Kutyna.
Mary Frances Dini, Andrew Lent, Kirsten Burt, and Ann Kutyna. Photo by Doug Kutyna.

The set displays three circular platforms, with a tree stump rising from the center circle. Lighting Designers Mary Ann Hall and Chris Hardy project shadows onto the curtain in the form of branches to create a forestry feel, and when the curtain is finally pulled back, a background painted by Sabrina Begley, Maggie Cotter, and Cathy Rieder shows Sherwood forest: dense and green, with a stately castle standing in the distance. Panels that depict other settings, such as a colorful county fair and the inside of a castle room, are wheeled on and offstage throughout the show. Costume Designer Kathy Dunlap uses aproned dresses, flower wreaths, and veiled headpieces atop elaborate gowns to depict the twelfth century, as well as chainmail and helmets for soldiers and the typical plumed hat, vest, and bow and arrow associated with the merry bandit. Sound design by Beth Atkins completes the atmosphere.

With King Richard the Lion-Hearted away on a crusade, the despicable Prince John has taken his place, much to the displeasure of the citizens, who are taxed to near starvation by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Andrew Lent) and convene in the Sherwood Forest under the care of Robin Hood (Shanelucas Ramsey) an outlaw who steals from the rich in order to feed the poor. It happens that one day, a caravan carrying the cowardly Sheriff of Nottingham himself travels through Sherwood Forest, where he is promptly robbed of everything except his undergarments! Traveling companion Lady Merle’s (a cool, calculating Kirsten Burt) necklace is taken, and, embarrassed and enraged, she promises revenge on Robin Hood. With them is the sweet Maid Marian (Claire Smallwood) a ward of King Richard with whom Robin Hood played with as a child. He is greatly upset to learn that she is promised to marry Prince John, and hopes to save her from her miserable fate. An opportunity comes when a fair comes to the county, planned by Lady Merle so that he may be lured out of the forest and into her grasp. Will Robin Hood, with the help of his merry gang, be able to save Maid Marion without becoming a victim himself?

This production provides a mixed bag of performances: some are fantastic, others quite rough. However, the cast is an enthusiastic one, and encourage the audience to shout their support (or displeasure) throughout the show, which they do so happily. Standout performances include Mary Frances Dini as the Sheriff’s Wife, a silly woman who is obsessed with climbing the social ladder while pulling her unrefined, wacky daughter Salome (Ann Kutyna) along behind her. The duo is greatly entertaining, and Dini is especially interactive with the audience, showing them a playful and friendly energy. Fight Choreographer Jim Campanella leads the actors in several fight scenes (at one point, playfully using light sabers instead of swords) which can get a bit cramped and clumsy due to the large cast and small stage, but it was still enjoyable.Worried about providing entertainment for a group of children with a large, varying scale of interests? Taking them to see Robin Hood is a good choice.With bandits, sword fights, swashbucklers, and merriment, there is something for every child to enjoy!

Running Time: 60 minutes, without an intermission.

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Robin Hood plays through February 17, 2013 at Elden Street Players’s Industrial Strength Theatre – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in  Herndon, VA. For tickets, call (703) 481-5930, or order them online.