The Robber Bridegroom
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The Robber Bridegroom: Theater review by Adam Feldman
There’s nary a lull in Alex Timbers’s exuberant revival of The Robber Bridegroom, a raucous hootenanny set in a fanciful version of 18th-century Mississippi. The production sprouts from diverse roots: It is a delightfully inventive reimagining of Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman’s 1975 musical, which was itself adapted from Eudora Welty’s 1942 novel, which spun themes from dark Northern European folktales into knowing Southern comedy. Timbers and his cast of nine hug the story’s wildness in a production that imparts a sly postmodern sensibility to hicked-up story theater.
The luxury-voiced Steven Pasquale plays Jamie Lockhart, a dashing bandit who hides his face in berry juice (drolly rendered as two maroon stripes); Ahna O’Reilly is Rosamund, the nubile, sexually unabashed girl he sets out to marry for her daddy’s money. When they officially meet, each presents a false facade that the other doesn’t desire; in a neat twist, they have already fallen for each other’s real selves, but don’t know it yet. That a big part of the show’s charm, too: It is happily two-faced. “Now this is true,” the company repeatedly claims in the opening number, but the world they proceed to lay out is plainly mythical: The villains, for instance, include the weaselly Little Harp (Andrew Durand), who carries around the severed but still-talking head of his brother, Big Harp (Evan Harrington). Like many of Timbers’s previous projects, including Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Peter and the Starcatcher, The Robber Bridegroom loves putting on a show.
Donyale Werle’s set conjures an old-fashioned country lodge, whose thick wooden beams are adorned with a deer head and an upside-down turkey; company members provide sound effects from the sidelines; a five-piece bluegrass band is visible throughout, whooping it up with fiddles, guitars, mandolins, a banjo and a bass. The metatheatrical framework frees the actors to provide some of the funniest moments in the musical, such as the unexpected touches of gentility that Greg Hildreth brings to his role as an imbecilic brute named Goat—you can imagine him lifting his pinkie when he swigs moonshine—and the flashes of modern shade that Leslie Kritzer gives to Salome, Rosamund's witchy, gold-toothed stepmother. If the ruthlessly shticky Kritzer steals the production, which she does, it’s not by pickpocketing: She takes it through pistol-to-the-belly, broad-daylight mugging. And that’s fair play in this Robber Bridegroom, which puts an already tall tale on stilts.—Adam Feldman