ROBIN HOOD: ON THE ROAD TO SHERWOODby Jon-Paul McGowan
Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Directed by Joey Dietz
Set Design by Rodney Dobbs
Costume Design by Christina McGowan
Lighting Design by Bryan Douglas
Sound Design by David H.M. Lambert
Props by Lindsey Humphries
Fight Choreography by Andrew Dillon and Rhonda Durant
Sheriff of Nottingham - DeWayne Blundell
Jeffrey - Robby Dullnig
Walter - Joel Frapert
Alan A Dale - Lauren Hearn
King Richard - Carlos Iruegas
Little John - Ian Murray
Roberta - Elizabeth Parker
Knight - Hugo Potts
Robin Hood - Matthew Stepanek
Constance - Lacey Valle
Maid Marion - Amy Wells
Prince John - Stephen Witkowicz
Photography by Rodney Dobbs
Reviewed Performance: 3/29/2013
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Billed as a spoof of the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope "Road To" movies of the 50s, Pocket Sandwich Theater's production seemed to be made of a recipe of three parts Robin Hood: Men in Tights; two parts The Princess Bride; and one part Shrek. This mixture created a fun production that poked fun at itself while it entertained its audience.
Having never been to Pocket Sandwich Theater, I made the mistake of eating prior to arriving at the theater. Once there, we were seated in a cute, though small, corner booth and served by a friendly and outgoing waiter who set the mood for a fun evening. Reading through the program, I learned that popcorn throwing would be allowed and shortly before the play began, every table received an order of popcorn to facilitate food tossing.
Pocket Sandwich Theater is a purveyor of melodramas. This one is set in the early 12th century and features the familiar Robin Hood and his band of merry men, along with Maid Marion and a sufficiently dastardly Prince John. A bard started the evening by giving the audience the setting and leading a sing-a-long. We were instructed to participate throughout the show by throwing popcorn, making "boo-hiss", "ahh", and "hazzah!" proclamations when appropriate. Although the cast seemed well prepared to ignore the loads of popcorn being thrown at them throughout the evening, I was somewhat disappointed they didn't interact with the audience when some participants tried to join in.
The set was well done, with scenery painted to look like a forest, a throne room, and a castle. Wall pieces were easily moved to create the different scenes. Most of the action took place in the forest, with occasional throne room and castle moments.
Costuming was done fairly well. Everyone had period attire. The men wore tights, tunics and boots. The corseted ladies were in dresses befitting their station. The knight costume, especially, seemed a tad similar to what one would find in a Halloween supply store, but could be forgiven as the entire effect of costuming gave the audience an adequate representation of the clothing of the time.
Lighting and sound design by Bryan Douglas and David H.M. Lambert, respectively, were appropriate and added to the general effect. One humorous scene found the Sheriff looking for his spotlight - as planned - and added a fun touch.
As I mentioned earlier, audience participation was limited to popcorn throwing and the occasional sound effect, but there was one scene that was particularly fun when Robin Hood and the mysterious stranger are competing at an archery contest. When each man sent the arrow flying, a stage hand ran across the stage, grabbing the arrow, and placed it on the target. I can assume this was born of a need for safety, rather than actually shooting the arrow, but the effect was fun and increased audience participation as one arrow went on a roundabout course to the target. This, along with other light-hearted efforts increased the light feel of the evening and added to the merriment.
The play itself tried to be a musical. However, there were only a few songs throughout the entire show. One song, performed by Robin Hood and Little John, gave an indicator of the depth of skill that would be provided throughout the show with a halfhearted attempt at quality of vocals.
Later in the play, I again found myself suddenly remembering that this was supposed to be a musical when Amy Wells as Maid Marion sang beautifully after the action had moved through several scenes sans music. The playbill does not have a list of songs, it only mentions "original songs and music" by George Gagliardi. The songs themselves were good - it was the delivery of them that left something to be desired.
I had some difficulty realizing who in the cast had what roles, as the names of the people on stage were rarely revealed. Each individual
in the cast had a necessary role, and all of them performed with a light-hearted but professional performance. It appeared the direction had been given to make these characters somewhat cartoonish, with Robin Hood sounding sometimes like Dudley Do-Right. This was not only effective, it added to the fun of the evening.
Matthew Stepanek portrayed Robin Hood as an outstanding citizen and downright good guy. Pausing for effect when making grandiose statements of his own abilities, he would often have wonderful facial expressions that continued the dialogue. His Robin Hood was very similar to the Performances of Cary Elwes in either Robin Hood: Men in Tights or The Princess Bride.
DeWayne Blundell, in the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham, came across as a powerful, although sometimes dimwitted man who was loyal to the prince and very willing to carry out his evil plans. Blundell flamboyantly sauntered through his scenes, whether tailoring a new frock for the prince or performing more evil tasks, such as kidnapping Maid Marion.
Elizabeth Parker, playing Roberta, provided some of the comic moments in the show with great timing. Her portrayal of the somewhat promiscuous, though family-friendly, female friend of Maid Marion and Little John was delightfully done. I enjoyed watching Parker on stage.
Amy Wells, as Maid Marion, provided the best vocals of the evening, as well as a solid performance as the maiden in distress. Alternating between love for Robin Hood and disgust with Prince John, Wells expertly transitioned through scenes. Wells seemed oblivious to the audience's attempts at pelting her with popcorn and her confident portrayal added strength to her performance.
Prince John was aptly portrayed by Stephen Witkowicz. His characterization of the short, though powerful prince came through in his facial expressions and intonation. Many of the most comical moments of the evening came through his channeling of Shrek's Lord Farquaad at opportune moments.
Overall, this show was a fun way to spend an evening. This is not a show full of deep meaning or grand performances, but provides a family-friendly, popcorn-throwing, evening of entertainment.
Pocket Sandwich Theater
5400 E. Mockingbird, #119, Dallas, Texas 75206
Plays through May 11th
Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00 p.m.
Tickets are $10.00 Thursdays, $18.00 Fridays, $20.00 Saturdays, and $12.00 Sundays. There is a $2.00 discount for seniors and children 12 and under.
For more info visit www.pocketsandwich.com. To purchase tix call the box office at 214-821-1860 (2:00pm-6:00pm daily)