REVIEW: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (City Lit Theater)


The Bodiless Head That Wasn’t Dead


 Legend of Sleepy Hollow poster - City Lit Theater

City Lit Theatre presents
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Written by Stephen F. Murray and Brian Pastor
Based on
novel by Washington Irving
Directed by
Stephen Murray
City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
through October 31  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Halloween and harvest seem to go together. It’s as if, when the crops are in, the ghouls are out. The land lies fallow and that vacuum is filled by supernatural interlopers, encouraged by the lengthening nights and the coming cold. One of the most infamous is the Headless Horseman, a former Hessian soldier who, having lost his head to a cannon ball, now gallops furiously at midnight, hurling it at unwary travelers and taking them back with him to the bowels of hell.

He’s the main menace in Washington Irving’s delightful fable, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” though a minor one is the thuggish Brom Bones, a bully who recalls the equally intimidating Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast.” The story’s victim, of course, is the itinerant schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, an awkward booby and suspicious as the one scholar in this hamlet of Sleepy Hollow just outside Tarrytown. Poor gangly Ichabod seems even more ridiculous when he falls for the heiress Katrina Van Tussel, only to fall victim to both Bones and his horse Daredevil, as well as the fearsome Horseman. His undoing follows an ill-fated fall quilting bee that goes terribly wrong when Ichabod clumsily courts the cold Katrina (a name to reckon with). Riding his not so trusty speed Gunpowder, Ichabod is launched into a race from hell or to it, it isn’t quite clear.

This is the engaging plot of a Halloween classic that in a mere hour City Lit brings to full life with an impassioned solo performance by co-adaptor Brian Pastor. His accuracy in portraying these Dutch caricatures from New Amsterdam is matched by his ability to paint stirring word pictures of the haunted glens and ponds, especially as feared by the locals.

Matthew Bivins’ original folk score and the live Foley sound effects (as if for a radio broadcast) by Shawn Goudie add considerable texture to Pastor’s talespinning prowess. Props count a lot here, like a bowling ball suggesting the cannon ball that shortened the Hessian wraith, a doll house to suggest the Van Tussel’s gentry status, and percussive instruments to suggest the trotting, then galloping steeds.

It all makes for some potent storytelling: Pastor’s “pliable and persevering” Ichabod is a sad martyr, punished, it seems, for daring to marry above his station. If only he hadn’t closed to school early to go to this harvest dance and the horrors that happened…

The one problem with the text is that the adaptation declares that this is Irving’s most important story. Not true: That distinction clearly belongs to “Rip Van Winkle.”

Rating: ★★★

Legend of Sleepy Hollow poster - City Lit Theater

One Response

  1. SUPER! Brian Pastor SPECTACULAR!!!!!

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