‘The Heart of Robin Hood’ beats strong and is full of thrills

“The Heart of Robin Hood” has a magical ending – but we’re not giving it away.

If you look away for even a second during the American Repertory Theater’s rollicking production “The Heart of Robin Hood,” you risk missing something incredible. This swashbuckling good time is about as entertaining and engrossing as live theater gets. This inventive take on the classic story is so much fun that even the most curmudgeonly of theatergoers will have a blast.

This Robin Hood steals from the rich but, rather than give to the poor, he keeps it for himself and his band of not-so-merry men who are clad not in tights, but in variations of kinkily thuggish leather.

Hood, who plays the part of a brutish crime boss, eventually falls for Marion, as in the old tale.However, in this redux, the romance is complicated by cross-dressing — Marion, the real hero of the play, dons men’s clothes to become Robin Hood’s nemesis, Martin.

As the battle of good versus evil rages, fighters and lovers alike fly through the air, tumble across the stage and engage in hand-to-hand combat that will not only delight children of all ages, but enable them to enjoy an artfully staged beheading as just another part of the frivolity. Incredible athleticism, impressive aerials and impeccable fight choreography aren’t, however, the only treasures you’ll find in this Sherwood Forest.

The back wall of the stage comprises two 40-foot slides covered in green moss that provide for some of the most entertaining entrances you’ll ever see. Even dressed in an elegant, silver beaded frock, the fair maid Marion (Christina Bennett Lind) drops in on her backside like everyone else. There are holes in the floor that people randomly pop in and out of and even a menacing shark that patrols a pond onstage.

Contemporary folk band Poor Old Shine provides the toe-tapping, hand-clapping score and some incredible musical moments.

Despite all the mayhem (and there is much of it) “The Heart of Robin Hood” has a fairly magical ending, but you’ll have to see it for yourself.

“The Heart of Robin Hood”
Through Jan. 19
American Repertory Theater
64 Brattle St., Cambridge


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