Playwright Adam Szymkowicz tells the tale of Robin Hood – but with some striking differences. It seems that Maid Marian, Robin Hood’s true love, is going to have to find a new love – since otherwise she would be in love with herself. Yes, Maid Marian and Robin Hood (Kirsten Vangsness) are one and the same in the current mythic Sherwood Forest. Of course, in this version, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Dan Wingard) and his cohorts would have to be blind, since the buxom Marian Hood would make a rather plump guy – and all in the wrong places. In fact, gender confusion permeates the current telling of this epic as male and female characters blend and fuse.
But the true uber-villain remains the same – Prince John (Joel Scher). At the same time, Royal John also undergoes a metamorphosis entailing gay and straight moments, most likely depending on the phase of the moon and Brother Richard’s whereabouts. On top of that, the Merry Men of Sherwood aren’t necessarily men. Perhaps a scorecard would help to identify Alanna (Sierra Marcks), Little John (Stephen Simon), Will Scarlet (Alysha Brady), and Friar Tuck (Alex Elliott-Funk). As the Merry Crowd begins to couple, Little John becomes the apple of Marian Hood’s archery target. And Friar Tuck finds salvation in Lady Shirley (Cat Chengery).
Still, Robin’s goal never deviates. She must rob the rich to give to the poor; and nothing can alter her mission – even whether she wears trousers or gowns. Kudos to Linda Muggeridge’s costumes, which are colorful and fit right into the period. Even though the Theatre of Note is a small space, scenic designer Bill Voohees manages to stretch it to encompass both court and forest. His tiny convertible stage is cleverly constructed indeed. Matt Richter’s lighting and Ryan Beveridge’s sound keep the action flowing.
Speaking of action, let’s not forget the numerous battle scenes and fight choreographer Jen Albert. Swords flash and pikes poke as the two enemy camps clash in to-the-death skirmishes. Kudos to the large cast, who manage to avoid stumbling over each other as they tumble and twist. And congratulations to director Christopher Johnson, who superintends this chaos with a firm hand. Spoiler alert: The “secret” that Robin is actually a woman is revealed far too soon.
MARIAN is silly and funny and sly and cute. If this were a high school production, it would be a winner. Except, of course, that a high school production might run into some censorship issues. Fight scenes represent a sizeable portion of the action – certainly a bit more than necessary. Although the show seems to tout feminism and female power, it doesn’t quite make the grade. Nor does the ending, which seems to fly in the face of fairy tales. In short, MARIAN doesn’t quite cut it as a farce, a comedy, a swashbuckler, a satire, or a dramedy. It rides that awkward spot that doesn’t quite satisfy any of these possibilities.
MARIAN, OR THE TRUE TALE OF ROBIN HOOD runs through September 22, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 7 p.m. on Sundays. Theatre of NOTE is located at 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028. Tickets are $25. For information and reservations, call 323-856-8611 or go online.