The tale of the headless horseman gets a comic reinvention with Walking Shadow Theatre Company's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
The show runs through March 2 at the Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis; critics find the show in turns 'endlessly funny,' 'lively' and 'compelling' with only a few tweaks needed.
Brant Miller, Ryan Lear and Joanna Harmon in 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.' Photo by Eric Melzer.
MPR News is Reader Funded
Before you keep reading, take a moment to donate to MPR News. Your financial support ensures that factual and trusted news and context remain accessible to all.
You know the story: schoolteacher Ichabod Crane arrives in Sleepy Hollow (from far off Connecticut), determined to make his name - and wed the eerie but sexy Katrina. He encounters, one fateful night, the above-referenced headless horseman, after which he ceases to be. Crane is played by an appropriately thin and goateed Ryan Lear with jumpy comic befuddlement. Something is going on in Sleepy Hollow; Crane doesn't understand what it is but he's quite certain he can contain it. We know better and as a result Lear is endlessly funny.
Brant Miller as Brom Bones in 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'
Photo by Dan Norman
Playwright John Heimbuch and director Jon Ferguson infuse this work with a lively blend of gothic terror and tongue-in-cheek humor that ably captures Irving's story and demonstrates why it remains so compelling. The image of the horse and rider, created out of nothing more than the scraps of wood, cloth and debris that litter the stage, becomes a tangible symbol for the way in which the mind can create fear out of half-glimpsed shadows, a creaking door and an overactive imagination.
Having grown up just a few minutes away from the real-life Tarry Town, the story of Sleepy Hollow was practically in my backyard, and this production's immersive design made me feel like I was right back in the middle of a New York Halloween. Given my familiarity with the material, I personally wanted the show to be just a little bit funnier or a little bit spookier - it will make you both laugh and shiver, but doesn't solidly qualify as either comedy or ghost story. But as an easily-watchable escape from the winter sleet and an utterly entertaining example of well-crafted storytelling, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a complete theatrical experience that is sure to please.
Ryan Lear and the cast of 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,' on stage through March 2 at Red Eye Theatre in Minneapolis.
Photo by Dan Norman
If I have one quibble with the play, it's that it could use a little tightening in the middle. There's some repetition as we hear the tale of the headless horseman more than once from different characters and the pace slows a bit during some of the storytelling, which doesn't maintain the energy of the acted scenes.
The climax of Ichabod versus the headless horseman is a nice piece of theater, with spooky smoke and flickering lights -- and the resolution is satisfying. We get the sense that if Ichabod hadn't lost his head, he might have been as happy with the ending of his story as we are.
Have you seen "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?" If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.