The Legend of Ichabod Crane
nytheatre.com review by Rohana Elias-Reyes
October 17, 2009
In 1820 Washington Irving published his short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," transplanting a traditional German headless horseman legend to a fictional town along the Hudson River north of New York City. Irving wrapped the transplanted legend in a "contemporary" mystery: what happened to the town's schoolmaster?
Nearly 200 years later, intrigued by Irving's free use of legend, storyteller Dan Kitrosser has created a kid-friendly adaptation called The Legend of Ichabod Crane just in time for Halloween. His nearly one-man show at the Brooklyn Lyceum sticks fairly closely to the original plot: Crane, a funny-looking, gluttonous schoolmaster with an outsized self-opinion, vies with the local tough Brom Bones for the love of a pretty and wealthy local girl, Katrina Van Tassel. Crane loves to listen to scary stories and on his way home from a party at Katrina's he believes the horseman is after him. He disappears without a trace and we are left to wonder, did the headless horseman get him, or did Brom Bones trick him to scare him away.
Kitrosser has added a number of funny songs and plays all the story's main characters with over-the-top zeal. Ichabod is more or less as you might imagine: snooty, credulous, and always on the lookout for a meal. Katrina longs for true love and believes she's found it in the form of a Thomas Jefferson pillow. Brom Bones works his anger out with Barbies and talks to his horse. Kitrosser also plays Katrina's father Balt and the Widow Hampshire, a character of his own invention who serves as the show's narrator. Ilan Iskanov plays piano and occasionally holds up and voices the aforementioned pillow and horse.
Kitrosser is absolutely at home with silliness, and Ichabod Crane offers his trademark blend of audience interaction, a smidgen of educational content, and high doses of manic energy. The kids in the audience turn down tastes of squirrel soup, sing "we hate the man from Connecticut," a catchy little tune that the Sleepy "Hollowians" shout out whenever Ichabod Crane comes around, beat out the rhythm of Ichabod's horse on their thighs, and generally participate throughout the show.
At times during the show, it seems Kitrosser has put more thought into developing his script than into its execution. Director Edward Elefterion has encouraged vocal and physical delineation between Kitrosser's multiple characters, but his high energy sometimes gets away from him, and he often speaks and jumps around so quickly that the words and story become muddled. More thoughtful costume and prop design would also have helped carry the story along and increased the theatricality. Though the production level is not as high as the level of his exuberance, Kitrosser has created a fun new show for kids with lots of laughs for adults included.
The Legend of Ichabod Crane is silly spooky fun and kids really enjoy Kitrosser's brand of nuttiness. However, you should consider your child's tolerance for scariness. If she's already seen a Harry Potter movie, no problem; if she runs out of the room screaming during Snow White, you may have a problem. There were some kids in the audience who looked under four years old laughing it up when I saw the show. However my own six-year-old got so anxious about the headless horseman's imminent arrival (he never actually appears on stage) that she kept asking if she could wait for me in the lobby until the show was over. She did manage to stick it out, admitted afterwards that there really wasn't anything scary, and she taught my four-year-old to sing "we hate the man from Connecticut" when she got home. He in turn has asked me if he can go see The Legend of Ichabod Crane next year when he's old enough.