Director Gisli Örn Gardarsson gave us an unexpected synopsis when describing the American Repertory Theater’s latest show, “The Heart of Robin Hood.” “In a nutshell, it’s a female heroic story,” says Gardarsson.
Despite the play’s title, the Robin Hood in this story doesn’t give back to the poor after he steals from the rich. Instead it’s Marion, a suppressed princess who has escaped from her castle, who wants to do good. But she has to dress up as a man to join Robin Hood and his gang of scoundrels. “The castle is governed by the old ways. You don’t have a say in who you marry and how you behave. She wants to be free and roam with the scoundrels in the forest,” he explains.
The twist on just who the real hero (or heroine) is isn’t the only unique detail. “It kind of takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night,’ says Gardarsson.
And the Shakespearean parallels go beyond a cross-dressing character. As in many of theBard’s works, this story blends a dark side with comedy.
“It’s like a Grimm fairy tale — people getting beheaded, tongues being ripped out — but it’s also very humorous,” explains Gardasson.
A.R.T. shows are known for their physical elements, and this one is no exception. The stage is transformed into a forest, and the actors fly through the trees using ropes and a giant ramp that’s almost 45 feet high.
Gardarsson is no stranger to such feats. “I did gymnastics for 15 years when I was younger,” he says. “So I come very much from that background. I also did ‘Metamorphosis’ [last season] at ArtsEmerson, and that was also very physical.” So you can bet that this “Robin Hood” is going to be action-packed.
“Anything you can do in a forest is done in this show,” says Gardarsson.
If you go
'The Heart of Robin Hood' Dec. 11 through Jan. 19 Loeb Drama Center 64 Brattle St., Cambridge $25-$65, 617-547-8300 americanrepertorytheater.org