William Shakespeare's Robin Hood | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

William Shakespeare's Robin Hood 

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Equity Library Theatre Chicago, at Chicago Dramatists Workshop.

If Equity Library Theatre hope to pull off an elaborate practical joke by mounting what purports to be William Shakespeare's lost Robin Hood, they ought to get their story straight. They've placed an authentic antique volume entitled Shakespeare's Comedies in their lobby and opened it to the title page of a play called Robin Hood. The book was privately published in 1867, a sign explains, by Henry Tyrell, who apparently believed this Robin Hood to be part of the Shakespeare canon; discovered in storage in the Harold Washington Library in 1991, the book "contains the text of tonight's play." But inside the program is an uncredited author's note that reads in part, "I based this version [of Robin Hood] on [source materials that would have been] available to Shakespeare in 1596." (A second, lengthier author's note in the press kit is credited to director Scott Lynch-Giddings.) Yet the opening lines of the play visible in Tyrell's book seem to be spoken verbatim by the actors.

If such inconsistencies had ceased once the play started, and if the play had done more than embellish the Robin Hood legend with three and a half hours of Shakespearean tropes, the evening might have been salvaged. But Lynch-Giddings's 19 actors seem to be in 19 different plays, given their costumes, acting styles, and accents: a "kitchen wench" attempts Eliza Doolittle, the Sheriff of Nottingham attempts Orson Welles, the Austrian ambassador attempts Colonel Klink, and everyone else attempts not to notice. If Lynch-Giddings wrote the play, he's created an impressive but taxing piece of mimicry. If Shakespeare wrote it, it may as well go back into storage.

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