Wednesday, May 15, 2019

review - WOLVES OF SHERWOOD - Brelby Theatre Company

the cast of Wolves of Sherwood
photo by Chris Jackson
by Carolyn Thomas

When presented with a story of Sherwood forest and its legendary inhabitants, the first thought that comes to mind certainly isn't spray paint and neon hair, but in the case of Brelby Theatre Company's world premiere of Wolves of Sherwood, it works. Brelby's Wolves of Sherwood brings the next generation of Robin of Locksley's Merry Men (and women) to the stage with bold creative choices, dynamic fights, and a fascinating plot.

Written by Chelsea Frandsen, Wolves of Sherwood gives the audience not only Robin and Marion, but their son and his new generation of 'wolves'. Their son Cassian is cocky, confident, and just like his father. Naturally, there's trouble with the sheriff, but things aren't quite as simple as that. Frandsen's script is action-packed, filled with twists and turns, and has many clever nods to the famous tales and characters we know. The one weakness Wolves has is a large number of characters new to the audience that go by many names. Audiences may often struggle, as I did, to determine which of the characters listed in the playbill are the ones they see before them, simply because the characters' names aren't said often or consistently. Otherwise, the script is quite strong, and on a solid track for continued success.

Brelby's production boasts several strong performances, most notably the leading man in his Brelby debut, Terrence McNulty as Cassian of Locksley, Robin's brash progeny. Terrence embodies Cassian's reckless bravado with sincere conviction, and excels in both fighting with words and with blades. It's the moments of vulnerability that make Cassian a relatable character, and Terrence gives those moments his heart. Following the family tree, it's difficult to separate Robin and Marion of Locksley, both in character and as performers. Brian Maticic and Shelby Elise Maticic play the legendary couple, and their offstage romance makes for a compelling onstage relationship. Brian brings a regal swagger to Robin, while still maintaining his rough-around-the-edges charm. Shelby's Marion showcases her strength as the backbone of the merry band, gentle at times, firm when needed, but always steadfast.

Anabel Olguin as Etienne Malbete plays a convincing bloodthirsty assassin, to the point where she almost has the audience rooting for her. John Noseworthy, another Brelby debut, brings humor and attitude to Will Scathelocke, Robin's right-hand man. Jonathan Gradilla plays an intriguing villain in the role of Josselin DeClaire, giving him just enough poise and madness that his character feels acutely on the verge of losing control.

John Perovich's direction makes full use of every opportunity for comedic moments, and his overall vision brings past to present in a fascinating way. The juxtaposition of familiar characters like Robin and Marion in a spray-painted punk paradise echo the themes of rebellion and youthful rage. The 'wolves' seem less of a band of 'merry men' and more of a gang, fighting to defend their turf. Paired with versatile scenic design by Brian Maticic and electric costumes, hair, and makeup by Shelby Elise Maticic, this vision comes fully to life. Shelby's costumes do well to establish family ties with color themes and subtle details, and she makes creative use of the theme.

Brian Maticic's fight choreography is a true star in this action-packed production. There's no shortage of opportunity to showcase a good fight, and Brian lets no moment go to waste. Rebecca Ulbrich and James Beneze's props lend themselves the theme, with a mix of the expected and unexpected, each tailored to the characters that use them. Original music by Clayton Caufman, Ben Cleaveland, and Tyler Rich adds intrigue, but in more poignant moments silence might be more effective.

The world premiere of Wolves of Sherwood at Brelby Theatre Company is full of intrigue, attitude, and bold creative concepts. If you like things off the beaten path, want to relive a little teenage rebellion, or love all things Robin Hood, don't miss Brelby's take on this new play.

CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs through May 26

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