Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse continues to provide trips down memory lane for this reviewer.
Their recent production of Fiddler on the Roof made me harken back to my days in high school theater while their current production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow plunged me even further back into my youth. The West Coast premiere of John Minigan’s adaptation of the Washington Irving story runs through Nov. 5
One of my fondest childhood memories is of my father reciting the tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman as our family traveled by station wagon from northeastern Pennsylvania through the Delaware Water Gap to my grandmother’s home in Northern New Jersey. It was a guaranteed way to keep six kids quiet for the better part of the trip.
That sense of rapt attention was recreated by the opening night audience as Skylar Evans took the stage to tell the tale of an itinerant teacher; his pursuit of the fair Katrina Van Tassel; his rival for her affections, the loutish Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt; and the restless spirit of a horse-riding Hessian mercenary who lost his head to a cannonball.
Closer in spirit to Walt Disney’s 1949 animated featurette than Tim Burton’s 1999 gorefest, Minigan’s approach is 100% old-fashioned storytelling. Set in a nameless New England tavern, Evans enters and introduces himself as Washington Irving. He engages with the audience as if they were fellow tavern-goers and soon begins the telling of the tale.
One-person shows are challenging enough for a performer. The added requirement of portraying a dozen or more characters really ups the ante. Evans, who is alternating in the role with Marin-based theater artist Nic Moore, is up to the challenge. With the exception of the Horseman, Evans brings each resident of Sleepy Hollow to vivid life through vocal or physical affectations. The Horseman appears via the judicious use of projections.
Director Marty Pistone understands how important atmosphere is in the telling of a ghost story and had a top-notch team of designers really bring it to the Monroe Stage. In particular, the sound design by Ben Roots in conjunction with original music by Nate Riebli significantly enhanced this production. April George does her usual fine job of using light to bring darkness to the stage.
With moments of good humor to leaven the story’s slow-building tension, 6th Street Playhouse’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is quite the Halloween-season treat.
’The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ runs through Nov. 5 on the Monroe Stage at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Thurs-Sat., 7:30pm; Sat-Sun, 2pm. $24–$45. 707.523.4185. 6thstreeetplayhouse.com.