Shakespeare can probably rest easy, but Actors’ Theatre may have a hit on its hands with Columbus playwright Philip J. Hickman’s “Robin Hood.”
In the current fashion of origin stories, this “Robin Hood” tells how the impulsive young heir to the title Earl of Huntingdon meets his future companions and matures into the legendary outlaw and hero. No less important in the context of this equal-opportunity play is Marian’s desire for Robin to “become a man fit to be my husband.”
The prominence and feistiness of the women in Hickman’s play are both notable and welcome. Beth Josephsen gives Marian a sharp tongue, a quick wit, and an unerring way with a bow and arrow. Susan Wismar’s Evelyn is more than a match for her son, the despicable Sheriff of Nottingham, played with sociopathic flair by Ben Sostrom. The affectionate teasing between Hannah Storch’s Alice Little and David Warwick’s John Little recalls Hepburn and Tracy, if not quite Beatrice and Benedick. And although Cate Blair-Wilhelm’s Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine appears only in the final few minutes of the play, she nearly walks off with the whole thing — so overpoweringly blunt and funny is her performance.
As Robin, Aaron Daniel Geib traces the whole arc of his evolution from zero to hero. Mark Passerrello makes for a stalwart Baron of Stratford, Marian’s father and Robin’s ally. Tom Patton portrays Friar Tuck as an adviser any future leader could use.
Hickman’s “Robin Hood” is a solid start for Actors’ 2012 season in Schiller Park.