8:00pm • Saturday, December 10, 2022 • Power Center
I spent a lovely evening this Saturday enjoying The Heart of Robin Hood, produced by the U-M Department of Theatre and Drama and directed by Geoff Packard. I have been seeing a lot of student-produced performances lately, so it was interesting to observe the differences in scale and execution between student productions like Musket’s Little Shop of Horrors, In the Round’s Spring Awakening, or Rude Mechanicals’ Indecent, and SMTD productions like this one. The biggest difference I noticed was the extensive list of collaborators who participated in developing the performance–spanning 8-or-so pages in the program!–the majority of whom were not students. It seems that they made it a point to include and credit as many roles as possible, being a University production with more direct access to funding.
One of the highlights of the show for me was the cute relationship developed between Marion, the protagonist played by Stefania Gonzalez, and her “buffoon”/friend, Pierre, played by Nathan Goldberg (who also had some funny moments of breaking the fourth wall and audience-participation). I also admired the unbridled evil captured in the character of Alice, Marion’s sister, played by Charlotte B. Um. For the Harry Potter fans who read this post, Alice was to the actual antagonist, Prince John (played by Pete Dickey), as Professor Umbridge was to Voldemort. Somehow, you just hate her more.
The set for the play was impressive, featuring a massive ramp which rose from the floor diagonally across the stage, surrounded by ethereal vine-wrapped trunks representing the trees of Sherwood Forest. I read that the set was designed to reflect how a child might interpret a story as it is read to them, rendered in broad strokes by their imagination. True to their intention, the setting reminded me of dreams where somehow I’m in several recognizable places at once. When the story transitioned from forest to castle, giant walls topped with gothic arches or cathedral-style cut-outs were lowered from above the stage to hover over the actors, giving one the sense that the space beyond and above the stage extended on forever. One could peak through the trees to see a platform where a band (local “chambergrass” band Westbound Situation) played the soundtrack for the play.
I look forward to seeing more of SMTD’s performances next semester, including The Importance of Being Earnest, Everybody (a modern take on Everyman), and Rent (previews forthcoming!). I hope everyone gets the opportunity to enjoy some art as this semester comes to a close and we move into winter break. As this will be my last post before I return to Ann Arbor in January, here’s to a new year full of wonderful performances!