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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Young Robin Hood

Also see Susan's review of Dreamgirls


Laura C. Harris and
Joe Isenberg

The legend of Robin Hood—that noble outlaw who pursued justice for the poor and less fortunate and battled the abuses of an uncaring wealthy class—would seem to be a perfect subject for a contemporary, family-oriented reboot. Unfortunately, Young Robin Hood, now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, just doesn't succeed in making an audience care about its story or characters. It's talky, though enlivened by intermittent scenes of fight choreography, and it plods along.

Playwright Jon Klein envisions the hero (Joe Isenberg) as a teenager questioning the world outside himself. In fact, the entire play is set up as a conflict between child and parent: Robin is an orphan raised by William (Craig Wallace), the royal forester of Sherwood Forest; Robin is friends with Philip (Davis Chandler Hasty), son of the oily Guy of Gisbourne (JJ Kaczynski); and Marian (Laura C. Harris) is the anachronistically outspoken daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Mitchell Hébert). The plot also involves a poor widow and her two children, but they're peripheral.

Klein is rather heavy-handed as he draws parallels between the story's mythical Old England of a millennium ago and the present day. For example, the nobility, and their stooges like the sheriff, freely pursue game for sport in the king's forest; these same people jail the poor who need to hunt for food. Several characters make ponderous speeches about the meaning of the law, the importance of keeping order in a society, and the need of children to rethink the ideas of adults. One character even criticizes King Richard the Lionhearted, away at the Crusades, for "abandoning his people to fight in foreign lands." And Klein is asking for trouble by using the phrase "the kindness of strangers," which jolts viewers right out of Sherwood Forest and into the world of Tennessee Williams.

Director Derek Goldman and fight choreographer Casey Kaleba have taught the actors to battle with swords, long sticks, and other implements while swinging from various parts of Misha Kachman's climbing-gym set. These energetic moments tend to be the most effective parts of the production.

Perhaps because of all that talking and the tiresomeness of the plot mechanics, the standout performance is wordless. Emma Crane Jaster invokes the spirit of the forest—notably portraying a wide-eyed deer—and creates a character as Marian's pet falcon Diana. Hébert is a convincingly evil sheriff (all he needs is a mustache to twirl), but he also gets a brief opportunity to show some depth.

Round House Theatre
Young Robin Hood
November 28th - December 30th
By Jon Klein
Diana/Spirit of Sherwood Forest: Emma Crane Jaster
Philip: Davis Chandler Hasty
Robin Hood: Joe Isenberg
William Fitzooth: Craig Wallace
Guy of Gisbourne: JJ Kaczynski
Marian: Laura C. Harris
Sheriff of Nottingham: Mitchell Hébert
Much: Sean Silvia
Joan: Allie Villarreal
Rosalind: Kimberly Schraf
An Abbott/Richard: Jeff Allin
Directed by Derek Goldman
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-5644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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