A fanciful—and fun—fairy tale at The Players.
By Kay Kipling
The Players of Sarasota’s current production, The Robber Bridegroom, makes for a pleasant change of pace from their usual offerings, with an offbeat story based on a novella by Eudora Welty and a score by Robert Waldman that helps tell that story through bluegrass songs.
Director Michael Newton-Brown, who’s staged the piece in a fluid, always moving style, also designed the set, which simply but effectively takes us into the world of the story through wooden barrels, wagon wheels, crates, planks and hay bales, all flexibly used to suggest the Mississippi flavor of the piece, set in 1798. That time period and the fanciful fairy tale way the story unfolds make the plot’s outrageous twists (say, a severed talking head in a trunk, or a handsome bandit with a dual identity) more acceptable and fun.
The action concerns that bandit (Craig Weiskerger) and his love affair with the daughter (Annemarie LaTulip) of a wealthy planter (Tim Minar). Only he doesn’t know that’s who she really is, and she doesn’t know his true identity, either. Things are complicated by her stepmother (Kaylene McCaw in an always lively performance), who wouldn’t mind having the bandit for herself, and certainly wouldn’t mind getting rid—permanently—of her stepdaughter.
It’s a story with charm and humor, and the songs, especially Deeper in the Wood, Love Stolen and Goodbye, Salome, have a quirky style that’s bound to please, even though they’re sung with varying degrees of success. Weiskerger, always appealing as bandit Jamie, vocalizes effortlessly, as does McCaw; Minar struggles with the demands of his songs, and LaTulip, while winsome, has some trouble on her high notes, too.
But the unique nature of the play, and the way Newton-Brown makes use of his ensemble cast (who are, along with the musicians, always on stage) to suggest not just townsfolk but trees and birds as well, lends The Robber Bridegroom much in the way of interest. It continues through March 11 at the Players; call 365-2494 or visit theplayers.org.