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The holiday season is here, and that traditionally means it is panto time at the Piccolo Theatre, where the parody is palpable, the manly hero is played by a woman and the dame is a dude.
This year, the company sets its sights on skewering the leader of men in tights, Robin Hood, in all his incarnations, including the Hollywood version Kevin Costner so badly butchered. The result of playwright Jessica Puller’s smart, agile script is a vibrant cast in insane makeup, wearing even more insane costumes, deconstructing the man and the myth, with plenty of song, dance, mirth and merriment for all.
Berner Taylor (of Piccolo’s “Rough Crossing”) brings her majestic voice to the role of Robin Hood, crafted here as an egocentric, TMZ-worthy celebrity, who takes the hero life for granted. On his side are Merry Men Alan (Maxx Miller) and Little John (Adam McAleavey), two “Bill and Ted”-inspired thieves who enter complete with air guitar riffs. Wannabe hanger-on Scarlet (Nicole Keating) tries to prove her worth to the lot by stealing a magic book from two swamp witches (ensemble members Vanessa Hughes and understudy Deborah Craft are a hoot).
Plotting their demises are the dastardly Sherriff of Nottingham (Vic May) and evil germaphobe and vinyl-pants-wearing Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Ben Muller of the deliriously entertaining “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale” is outstanding again). Wishing to kidnap Maid Marian (the talented and beautiful Kaitlin Chin) and force her to marry him, Sir
Guy sets a trap, staging an archery contest
to lure Robin out of hiding and accuse him of taking performance-enhancing drugs, causing a public relations nightmare (and there’s the twist).
Riffing on current social media such as Twitter and Facebook, Chicago references, ‘80s synth pop and rock and silly-yet-witty dialogue, “Robin Hood: The Panto” should appeal to old folks like me and to our children as well.
My favorite slice of irreverence is spoken by Little John in response to Alan’s question, “Don’t you know the difference between ignorance and apathy?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care!”
Joshua Allard directs the spritely song-and-dance routines by composer/lyricist Tyler Beattie, and scene designers John Szostek and Noah Ginex employ some more black-light trickery, the likes of which the Piccolo, over the years, really seems to pull off with aplomb.
Co-directors Glenn Proud and Brianna Sloane man the mayhem with an actor’s touch (both are Piccolo ensemble members), controlling the chaos onstage without constraining the performers’ gusto. All the talent makes for a fun show “piled high with ill-gotten booty.”
“Robin Hood: The Panto!” runs through Dec. 18 at the Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main St. For tickets call 847-424-0089 or visit www.piccolotheatre.com.