Shortly after the Town’s Girl turned narrator, freshman Valerie Tewell, introduced Jukebox Theater’s first production of the season, the self-declared “most important character,” Robin Hood, took the stage. Freshman Paul Vermeesch, playing Robin Hood, had never performed in a production prior to his participation in “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood” on Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 9-11, in Barrows Auditorium. Nonetheless, fellow Jukebox participants called him “brilliant” and “phenomenal” in the comedic play.
In the comedy, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, — played by female actors wearing made-up beards and fake paunches — set out on a quest to save his love, Lady Marian, from marrying the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff and the “evil Prince John” were attempting to elevate the Prince into kingship. At every mention of the Prince, Robin Hood’s Merry Men and their friends said, “Boo-hiss, boo-hiss,” motioning the audience to do the same. The audience, composed of families with children as well as college students, caught on quickly.
The play’s cast and director had not known until a few days before the production that Vermeesch had never acted prior to being in Jukebox Theater. Vermeesch and freshman Hannah Doan, who played Lady Marian, acted using dramatic body language, witty humor and puns, all meant to lighten up the audience and give them a mental break. They emulated awkward, young love as they swooned over each other.
Doan’s Lady in Waiting, played by sophomore Lauren Boughner, added to the comedic drama by holding out a piercing scream from time to time. Boughner’s scream won her a job in the fictitious kingdom’s broadcasting program at the end of the play.
The Merry Men added to the humor as well. At one point, Robin Hood asked them to dress up as fake trees. They each held a few branches in front of them as a disguise and argued about whether or not that was what Robin Hood had meant. One tree, played by junior Lauren Laskowski, sobbed until her fellow Merry Men asked her why she was crying. She replied that she was a weeping willow.
The Merry Men also offered multiple bad ideas for how to sneak into the castle to rescue Lady Marian, which Vermeesch continuously dismissed. Their suggestions included tunneling 17 miles from the woods to the castle using their weapons of wooden spoons as well as knocking on the castle door pretending to sell doorbells.
Another dash of humor was added by the torture method Vermeesch underwent when he was captured. The Prince and the Sheriff played Justin Bieber’s Christmas album until he became delirious. In the end, Robin Hood and Lady Marian were reunited and sent off to be married, and the villains were sent away using the “fade out and switch scenes” method the Town’s Girl repeatedly announced and used to transition during the play.
According to the director, junior Matthew James, the goal of the play was to bring lightheartedness to the stress at Wheaton. If Jukebox being sold out of physical tickets on Saturday and if the audience’s participation and laughter meant anything, the student-led theater succeeded.
James chose the play for Jukebox this year because, he explained, “It’s so lighthearted and fun that I thought it would be perfect for Jukebox, first of all, and perfect for Wheaton because things are always so busy around here. It’s really nice to not take ourselves seriously for a little bit and just laugh at our own ridiculousness.” James had performed in the play as Robin Hood in eighth grade.
James immediately continued, “(Vermeesch) did things with the character that I never even dreamed of. He has been absolutely phenomenal, and it was his first show.” James added that he was proud of the entire cast, made primarily of “talented” freshmen chosen because of their interplay.
“Wheaton is so stressful. A lot of the times we need a minute to smile at life itself. I think this play somehow gets at that,” James said.
Tewell, the Town’s Girl, reflected James’s praise for the cast upon him, noting his leadership, encouragement and “chill” demeanor. She added about her fellow lead, “(Vermeesch) is phenomenal. He’s so fun to work with.”
Noting Jukebox as a worry free zone for her, Tewell said Jukebox taught her “to laugh and not have worries … It’s healthy. You need to have those breaks in the craziness.”