Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre Company is always pleasantly surprising me. Earlier this season, I was nervous about their ‘new translation’ of Cyrano, but I ended up loving it so much I saw it three times (yes, three times). So when the Arden announced an “action packed re-imagining of the legendary tale” of Robin Hood as part of their Children’s Theatre series, I really shouldn’t have been concerned. But you see, I love Robin Hood. I am a total Errol Flynn fan-girl. I own at least four different versions of the story on DVD. I was worried. What did “re-imagining” mean anyway? Give me sparkling green tunics and men in tights please!
I am here to tell you that I was wrong, again, to be worried. The Arden has created an entertaining, dynamic, exciting, andÂ captivatingÂ “re-imagining” of the Robin Hood tale. Whether you are five, or seventy-five, you’ll be smiling when you leave the theater.
The Arden’s production of Robin Hood is is directed by Arden newcomer Matthew Decker (winner of the 2011 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Theatre Horizon, where he is co-founder and resident director). “I couldn’t be more excited to take this well-known story of Robin Hood,” he said, “and turn it into an interactive, physical, playful production on the Arden’s stage.”
And Decker’s description couldn’t be more apt. The set is reminiscent of aÂ jungle-gym, allowing the actors to swing, jump, hang, dodge, fight, roll, and even make a killer entrance. When I first walked into the theater on opening night, I wondered how the more Â ‘abstract’ nature of the set would work with the show, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate its brilliance.
Staring as the titular swashbuckler is Sean Lally (who CultureMob loved in Romeo and Juliet). From the moment he swings into action (in one of the best entrances I’ve seen of late), until the lights go out in the final scene, Lally is impossible to take your eyes off of. He’s energetic and charming, with a touch of bravado and fearlessness – everything you’d expect from a good Robin Hood. Although the costume is a bit non-traditional (no sparkling green tunics here), and the portrayal a bit more modern, there’s no doubt that he’s the hero we love and root for.
Playing opposite of Lally, as the deliciously wicked Sheriff of Nottingham, is Ian Merrill Peaks. I had recently seen him in the Arden’s production of Clybourne Park, and was more than a little excited to see him playÂ Nottingham. What continually impresses me aboutÂ Peaks is his expressive nature. He always has the best facial expressions, and hisÂ Nottingham was just downright hilarious (and he was meant to be in this production).
Another standout is Steve Pacek, who plays five different characters in Robin Hood. Pacek’s no stranger to the Arden’s Children’s Theatre, and he knows exactly how to elicit a response from his young audience. His portrayal of Prince John and Friar Tuck in particular got huge laughs from the kids (and the adults too for that matter). After the show, when he was talking to the children, you could tell just how in awe of him they were. He had a huge crowd of little theater fans asking him questions.
If you have kids, or are just a kid at heart like me, go check out Robin Hood at the Arden. It is a delightfully entertaining adventure fit for young and old.
The show runs now through June 24. Single ticket prices are $16-$32, with discounted ticket prices for kids and teens. Call the Arden Box Office at 215-922-1122, order online at www.ardentheatre.org or visit the box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, Philadelphia. Additionally, the Arden has partnered with Target to create a ticket discount program. This program offers two tickets for the price of one during selected performances of Robin Hood. Please refer to the show calendars at www.ardentheatre.org for the designated performances. There is a limit of four discounted orders (8 tickets) per transaction, available while supplies last. When ordering online or by phone, reference code TARGET.