“Maid Marian” Hits the Mark

The latest in Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s Honey Series is Sweet and Tart

Looking back on my misspent youth, it is easy to connect the dots of learning archery and carrying boot knives (not to mention my love of nonprofits) with my adoration of the Robin Hood legend. I now have another turn of the tale to add to my collection, thanks to Sweet Tea Shakespeare‘s original script “Maid Marian.” Written by local teacher and STS regular Jessica Osnoe, the story is written as a prelude to the myth that has fascinated for hundreds of years.

marian play
Jen Pommerenke as Maid Marian in Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s original show

Osnoe’s script keeps us in Nottingham and the forest as we follow Lady Marian Fitzwalter, her siblings, and a cousin, as they attempt to outwit the Sheriff and Guy of Gisbourne who are stealing-er-collecting taxes for Prince John. Their merry band of women includes a pair of sisters from the village.

For those familiar with Sweet Tea’s set up, normally the spring & summer shows are held out behind the 1897 Poe House on Bradford Avenue. Audiences are encouraged to bring their own seating and sweet tea, beer, wine, water, and comestibles are all available (and all local: beer was from Hugger Mugger Brewery in Sanford, the tea from Winterbloom downtown on Hay St, and food from Fayetteville Pie Company in Westwood Shopping Center).

The night I took in the show, there had been rain, so the production was moved into the church social hall next door. Undeterred, the cast, musicians, and crew put forth a delightful performance, from the pre-show madrigal-esque tunes to the well-choreographed fight scene, and triumphant climax. As behooves this particular legend, there are plenty of ballads, interludes, rousing call-to-arms, and perhaps a love song, all of which fit into the story seamlessly.

Emma and sister Marian, plotting something!

Like the “bracing river” Marian and company use to delightful comic effect, this show is invigorating, both to the legend it’s based on and to local theater offerings. Contemporary without neglecting history, period without feeling dated: the show is stimulating for regular theater patrons and new audiences alike.

While this show runs through May 12, I am already looking forward to Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s summer rep programming, plus what they have in store with their youth council, Green Tea. Their shows are family-friendly–and if “Maid Marian” any indication–an exemplary way to get those not enamored with historical theater to be thoroughly in love by evening’s end.

Sweet and Salty: “The Cake” at CFRT

“The Cake”, a play by Bekah Brunstetter, is my favorite kind of theater: hilarious, heart-warming, and profoundly topical. I was going to say it was like pineapple upside down cake, which is my favorite kind of cake, but I couldn’t figure out the topical part: maybe it’s the maraschino cherries?

Cape Fear Regional Theatre, the crown jewel of theater in Fayetteville*, is currently running this show. It was our first show to see after moving to town. I was really excited to see it on the season list, as it is the type of play that pushes the envelope for a Southern, relatively conservative theater audience. But that’s what theater is for, right? To wake up viewers, cause them to think about long-held beliefs, empathize with characters, and maybe realize we all have common human traits.

This production tickles the funny bone as much as it twinges the heart-strings. Brunstetter has drawn authentically complex characters and this cast brings them delightfully to life. I rooted for Della and Tim as much as for Jen and Macy. Love is love is love.

Since the play is an intimate one–four characters, minimal number of sets needed–CFRT brought the audience onto the regular proscenium stage, building risers to accommodate seating around the glorious set. The bakery is, dare I say, a confectionery, all pastels and gingerbread trim. The prop cakes were stunning, thanks to the handiwork of Susannah-Lee Wagner, props artisan. The turntable bedroom and upstairs loft space are breath-taking in such close quarters. Jimmy Bennett’s costumes and Dan Robbins’ lights help establish character and mood.

And I have to give a shout-out to the crack stage management team! Scene transitions can make or break a show and they were efficient and focused, even fixing a set dressing snafu in between scenes. Credit where credit’s due, y’all: I didn’t notice a missed light or sound cue, transitions were quick, and everything moved smoothly. This is the mark of fine theater craftsmanship, just as much as what the actors do on stage.

The proverbial icing on the cake is the actual cake served up post-show, thanks to local bakery Sweet Palette (another huge arts supporter that we’ll profile later). I do hope that CFRT can find other ways to work in partnering with different local businesses for future shows. Complimentary mud facials for Shrek, perhaps?

*The other theaters are jewel-like in their own ways. More on them soon.