boyz in the hood

The Off Broadway Theatre invited press to the new play 'Robin Hood: Boyz in the Hood' last night, and I was lucky to be there.

Yes, lucky. Maybe my review of the Star Ward play a month ago wasn't very favorable, but this show changed my entire take on the non-profit theatre. Writer Eric Jensen and Director Eric Armstrong perfectly mix a creative plot, physical humor and interaction with the audience, ignoring the fourth wall and admitting the good guys "never die" in this type of play.

Robin Hood (Matt Glade) and the Merry Men rob Sheik Hugh Boote' (Monte Garcia) of his oil shipment. So, the sheik teams up with the Sheriff of Nottingham (Rusty Bringhurst) to get his revenge.

Jensen originally wrote the Merry Men's theme song as a Cher parody, but Armstrong said the play needed a timelier, more relevant song to make fun of instead. I won't give it away, but it's performed twice during the play. The second time is even funnier than the first, and it's definitely the highlight with perfectly imperfect choreography by Clarissa Armstrong.

The play also finds a way to reference Elvis, Grease, Thriller, Village People and, of course, the new Robin Hood movie starring Russell Crowe-great timing for the premiere BTW.

I'd like more localized content, though. Sir Guy, played by Jensen, mentions Larry H. Miller once, but it would be nice to have some extra Utah humor.The Sherwood vs."sure would" joke was overdone a bit, and I'm not sure why it's called "Boyz in the Hood" without any characters from "the hood." No raps, street thugs or anything I remember from the Ice Cube classic, but it does have some nice booty shakin'...I'm not sure if all of it is planned either.

The funniest parts are improvised. Anytime an actor messes up a line or almost knocks over the set, it's picked it up for some jokes-even if it means making fun of the cheesy special effects.

The last scene is a hilarious wedding ceremony on stage. I wanted to jump in and join the party, but thought it might compromise my journalistic integrity and I'd be escorted out.

Overall, despite the minor flaws I mentioned, Robin Hood: Boyz in the Hood is a great play for the whole family, funny and truly represents The Off Broadway at its best.

Robin Hood: Boyz in the Hood, through 7 p.m. July 10 The Off Broadway Theatre, 272 S. Main Street, SLC Click here for tix

Reserve your tickets early, bring the kids and pick up one of Off Broadway's cool new shirts from 2Day Designs.