THEATER REVIEW: “Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood” @ Cleveland Play House by Laura Kennelly

Photos by Roger Mastroianni

Through Sun 2/24

Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, now at the Cleveland Play House’s Allen Theatre, sets a snappy pace. As seen in previous CPH Ludwig comedies (such as Baskerville, A Comedy of Tenors and The Game’s Afoot), farce rules in this capsule sketch of the triumph of Robin Hood and his Merry Band. It’s directed by Adam Immerwahr.

While nothing is safe from Ludwig’s gentle mockery, it’s all in good fun. Arrows fly (see if you can figure out how they do that without killing each other), towers are scaled, bad guys are trounced, and new love comes for Robin (yes, it’s Maid Marion, but it was a surprise for Ludwig’s Robin).

There’s likely no point in reviewing the plot — everyone knows the tale of Robin Hood’s resistance to tyrannical authority way back in 1194 England,  don’t they? Ludwig’s play touches familiar legendary aspects of this (perhaps) mythological rebel who resisted injustice, was popular with the peasants (most of us were peasants back then) and lived in the woods (sometimes).

Zack Powell portrays Robin Hood with the charismatic flair one needs for heroic deeds (and for charming others into following his schemes to save the country). Maid Marion (Amy Blackman) became his self-confident (and independent) love interest. (Of course, this is 2019 so she has to be her own woman, not some delicate flower.)

My favorite character was Jonah D. Winston’s John Little, but (as he tells us), he quickly got to be called  “Little John” by Robin’s crew. Winston’s large frame lent itself perfectly to typecasting, but it didn’t hinder him from keeping up with the crazy antics that Robin instigated.

As the diminutive Sheriff of Nottingham, a hilariously self-important Steven Rattazzi made the most of his character’s size and idiosyncrasies. Another funny fellow, Prince John (Price Waldman),  managed to speak almost as eloquently as a Shakespearean hero (and as the play revealed, that’s no accident).

Other ensemble members include the stalwart Friar Tuck (Doug Hara), the oft-flustered Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Josh Innerst) and the unlucky Deorwynn (Andrea Goss). The ensemble cast plays more than their primary roles, pitching in as needed to fill out the story. There’s no lack of small asides, jokes and hammy poses from every side of the stage.

The set is a delight that (sometimes) includes a flowing stream (with lilies and plunking water sounds) and a giant all-purpose tree trunk built into a two-story castle. Scenic designer Misha Kachman and sound designer Nick Kourtides cleverly used both set and sound to enhance. The characters raced around without mishap, thanks to choreographer Robert Barry Fleming, who mapped out seemingly complex transitions.

Jess Goldstein’s costume design enabled quick changes necessary to the story. Lighting designer Nancy Schertler made sure our eyes followed the paths that enhanced the special effects. The arrows that flew across the set and stuck into walls, trees, etc. were especially well-designed to fool the eye.

BOTTOM LINE: Sherwood Forest is still a terrific place to visit for an evening of good-natured fun.

[Written by Laura Kennelly]

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