ESR Theatre’s ‘Sherwood’ is a steal
PORT HURON, Mich–The historical Robin Hood (if the moniker refers to a singular historical person at all) may or may not have been a serious personality, being devoted as he was to righting the injustices done by Prince John to the poor folk of Nottinghamshire. The Robin Hood of Ken Ludwig’s comedy Sherwood, produced by Enter Stage Right on the Citadel Stage in Port Huron, is certainly a rogue, quite the charmer of ladies, not as accomplished at archery as the legend would have you believe, but just as devoted to helping the downtrodden.
Regina Spain directs this cast in a fun romp through Sherwood and Nottinghamshire. Narrated directly to the audience by Friar Tuck (Marty Garavaglia), the story flashes back to points in Robin’s childhood, where we see him learning sword skills and bible verses, saying goodbye to his childhood friend Marian, and watching his father go off to the crusades. By the time we meet adult Robin (Anson Pavlov), his ancestral lands have been commandeered by the local bully, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Darrel Hafner), and his run-ins begin with Gisbourne’s enforcer, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Leah Gray).
Robin’s real trouble with the local law begins when he attempts to help young Deorwyn (Tabby Dawson) rescue her wrongly imprisoned mother. In the process he befriends many other poor folk, including John Little (Jason Eagan) and Tuck, who have become thieves and denizens of the forest to escape the high taxes and oppressive policies of Prince John (Paul Miller). He is also reacquainted with the recently returned Marian (Jamie Leslie), who has grown into a full-blown beauty—and highly skilled archer. The problem is, she is also the betrothed of Gisbourne; Robin quickly becomes smitten, and her loyalties quickly become divided. When one of his companions is captured, Robin eventually turns himself in to the Sheriff in order to save her. But his past good deeds earn him a pardon, and the real baddies get their due.
There are many things that make this show a lot of fun to watch. The lead cast—Pavlov as Robin, Leslie as Marian, Garavaglia as Tuck—have a confident presence on stage, and handle the farcical script with ease. They have seem to have the right combination of qualities that make successful comedy—irony, mockery, self-awareness, timing, expression, pacing. Leslie is an especially self-assured yet sassy (not overly snarky) Marian. Pavlov as Robin remains clever and cool, even when he realizes he loves her. Garavaglia as Tuck is a sarcastic cleric with a high opinion of himself, never afraid to point out the irony in just about every situation.
The rest of the supporting cast keeps the show moving at a good clip, with nary a still moment on stage. Deserving attention are Gray as The Sheriff of Nottingham, who may be smarter than Gisbourne but is frustrated at her inability to outsmart Robin; Jaclyn Radford delivers as a swaggering Teen Robin, and maintains a noticeable energy in her other cast roles.
Sword fighting and other forms of combat are a hallmark of any swashbuckling adventure, and the many combat scenes in this production, which are skillfully choreographed and well executed, are among the highlights the show. Multiple combatants spar simultaneously, moving about the stage to take on different opponents and leaving no space without action. Adding to the merriment of the show are the cleverly planned and implemented sound effects (Brian Spain), and a “soundtrack” of music performed by Hip Tuck & Rumble, a local blues-rock band.
Sherwood can certainly be summed up as a fun show that can be enjoyed by all but the very young. Even adolescents will appreciate some of the humor references; they will likely enjoy the inclusion of several young cast members in the show—and the sword fighting! Sherwood is playing at The Citadel Stage in Port Huron through May 19, 2019.