Swordplay in the ’hood
William Land Park4000 S. Land Park Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95822
Robin’s in the ’hood. The man in green tights lands in Land Park this summer with his tale of robbing the rich and giving to the poor. It certainly seems like an appropriate time for a play about a hero that robs from the ethically challenged rich and gives to the deserving and struggling poor.
Robin Hood comes to the rescue as part of the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival. Though not written by the Bard, Robin Hood has that classic language, ambience and story line that bookends nicely with the festival’s other offering—Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
In fact, the story of Robin Hood predates Shakespeare and was considered a tiresome old school tale during the Bard’s time, according to the production’s director Christine Nicholson. But the narrative remains archetypical—good guys fighting for the noble cause as idealistic outlaws, corrupt politicians, greedy rulers, treachery, romance, hidden identities and, of course, swords. Lots of swords.
The plot is familiar, dotted with well-known characters: Good King Richard is kidnapped and held for ransom. His bad brother John plots a takeover. Fines are leveled against the people. Fair Lady Marian: good. Sheriff of Nottingham: bad. Robin Hood: good. His merry men, including Little John and Friar Tuck: good.
Land Park’s amphitheater makes a great setting for the swashbuckling story: very Sherwood Forest-y, complete with cool breezes, beautiful trees, a couple of sprinkles Saturday night, pesky mosquitoes and flying geese formations overhead. The first half of the opening-weekend production was uneven, with slow pacing and low energy. But intermission revived the cast, who came out strong and finished with a flurry that had the audience cheering for an unexpected hero. Instead of the good-looking but way too nice Robin (Ryan Ritter, a performance that lacked the necessary edgy danger), it was Kira Taylor as Lady Marian who showed the feisty spunk and energy that let us believe the band of merry men and a couple of fiery women could get the best of evil. Taylor shines, along with her sidekick Michelle Murphy as Sabina—two chicks who kick butt with charm!
Other notable performances are Greg Jolivette as a charming Little John, Lew Rooker as an impish Friar Tuck, Jes Gonzales as the ne’er-do-well Sheriff of Nottingham, Julian Sandoval as snarky Prince John and a plucky Trina Palmer as Much, the comic relief.
The set is simple, just a chair or tree stump here and there, letting the natural setting of the park present the atmosphere of an English countryside. The period music and singing interludes add to the festive feel. Special kudos to the costumes, which play a co-starring role in the production. Designer Nicole Sivell has made this handsome production a pleasure to watch.
Robin Hood is a fun family production full of action, though the structured, archaic dialogue may be too much of a burden for a younger crowd. Spoiler alert: In the end, good overcomes evil, and the audience leaves feeling justice has been served, Robin Hood style.