Friday, April 5, 2013

The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood at Olympia Family Theater

reviewed by Alec Clayton

Ryan Holmberg as Prince John
Dennis Worrell as Robin Hood

I had such a good laugh last night at Olympia Family Theater’s The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood. This is children’s theater that adults can love while children are charmed, and judging by almost sellout the audience the night I attended no one is too old or too young to enjoy it because it has everything from great slapstick comedy to rollicking adventure to brilliant word play to audience participation. 

It is a loud play with lots of frantic running around and lots of shouting from everyone except Town’s Guy (Chris Cantrell) who does not speak at all.

The humor is of the Monty Python/Saturday Night Live variety but without the sex, violence and bad language. There are no curse words, but there are plenty of curses, all from the dainty lips of the lovely Maid Marian (Ingrid Pharris Goebel) — curses such as may you have acne, may you have dandruff, may you have itches in places you can’t scratch. (Maid Marian seems obsessed with irritable skin conditions.)

This delightful take on the classic tale was written by Mary Lynn Dobson and is directed by Tom Sanders in his first directorial outing. 

A word about Town’s Guy’s silence: It’s possible, not very likely, but possible, that Cantrell came down with laryngitis and having him not speak was a last minute adaptation and maybe he’ll speak in subsequent performances. But as I said, that’s not very likely. There is a pre-show speech by Robin Hood (Dennis Worrell) in which he explains to the kids what the story is about, invites them to help by shouting out such helpful phrases as “Boo Hiss” every time the evil Prince John is mentioned, and explains the difference between a play and television. And then he explains that the Town’s Guy can’t speak but will narrate the story with gestures only — and then Cantrell in  deliciously underplayed absurdity makes gestures and telling facial expressions throughout the play as Sanders, off stage, speaks his lines. Whatever the reason, whether it was laryngitis or written into the script, it worked beautifully.

Almost every actor in the play deserves special recognition, but I can’t single out every one. They’re all good, starting with Worrell, who plays the Prince of Thieves as a self-satisfied egotistical maniac with big dramatic gestures and poses throughout. He even makes fun of himself, as most of the characters do, by saying things such as don’t interrupt, I’m posing.

Ryan Holmberg knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of the evil Prince John (Boo Hiss!) as a fey poseur, the perfect foil to Robin Hood. 

Goebel’s portrayal of Maid Marian is the most outrageously funny performance I’ve seen from her since her mid-boggling performance in Don Juan in Chicago five years ago.

Outstanding in supporting roles are Christine Goode as the Lady in Waiting, Christian Carvajal as Little John (who knew this celebrated dramatic actor could do abject idiocy so well?), and Bobby Brown as Friar Tuck.

Take the kids or take a date. Either way you’ll love it.

Robin Hood runs through April 14 at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts Back Box Theater, 512 Washington St., Olympia.

Performances Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at    1 p.m., with an additional 4:30 matinee Saturday, April 13.   

Children 12 and under $9, Students/Seniors/Military $12, Adults $16 (Plus    $3 WA Center Service Fee per ticket). Available online at, by phone at (360) 753-8586 or at the WA Center Box Office. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Discounts only available by phone or in person at the box office.


Carv said...

One slight correction: Town's Guy does speak, ordinarily. It's just that poor Chris Cantrell has the same bug the rest of us have, and his has manifested as laryngitis! Last night was the first night his dialogue had to be "looped" from offstage. Thanks for coming!

Alec Clayton said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Carv. With all the talk about the ubiquitous technical director it seemed to work well. BTW, you really were extremely funny, and it was cool the way they snuck in a plug for Reservoir Dogs.

pug Bujeaud said...

Okay I am dying to know, how it the world did the Robin Hood gang plug Dogs? Since I won't get there for a while.

Alec Clayton said...

I don't remember he exact line, Pug, but somebody toward the end of the play mentioned that somebody was going to see Reservoir Dogs. Brian Jansen was in the audience. Maybe he could tell you. Or ask Tom or Carv or Ingrid.