Left at the Altar 

"The Robber Bridegroom" at Dogwood Dell is comic and Gothic — but not enough of either.

It's not that the show lacks charm. Based on a novella by Eudora Welty, it has an intriguing leading man with a complicated split personality disorder and a gorgeous leading lady with a beautiful voice. The show brims over with lively square-dance tunes performed by a peppy onstage band, directed by Sandy Dacus. To cap it off, director Tom Width does an admirable job of filling the enormous Dell stage with action and wit.

The show tells the story of Rosamund (Juli Robbins), the mischievous daughter of a rich farmer. Driven by boredom, she throws herself into the arms of a dashing and disguised bandit she meets in the woods. But this bandit turns out to be semi-respectable Jamie Lockhart (Derek Phipps), who's legitimately wooing Rosamund sans disguise with the approval of her father (Mark Persinger).

Lockhart's dual nature leads to complications. In "Bridegroom," these complications involve a disembodied head that talks, a murderous thief who likes his women tied up and a dimwit named Goat who willingly gives his sister to the murderous thief. It's all in good fun. But it's also not quite slapstick enough to make the dark elements palatable, and never quite dark enough to make the weirdness less than jarring.

When the song "Love Stolen" comes along at the end of Act 1, you know you're supposed to laugh as Lockhart knocks Rosamund unconscious before making love to her. But it's more creepy than amusing.

It doesn't help that while the lyric-free dance music is spry and melodic, most of the characters' songs come across as tuneless muddles. Only Robbins is given a chance to shine vocally, her compelling voice lighting up the dreamy ballads of the first act. Phipps is charismatic as Lockhart, but plays it all a little too matter-of-factly.

Not many in the company seem like natural comedians, except for Joy Williams, who plays Rosamund's evil stepmother, Salome. Her performance is suitably over-the-top.

Scenic designer Alan Williamson has put together an impressive multilevel set for the production, with many interesting nooks and crannies. And the costumes by Maura Lynch Cravey are detailed and appropriate to the time period. But, in the end, this "Robber Bridegroom" didn't steal the heart, just a couple of hours. S

The Robber Bridegroom
Dogwood Dell, Byrd Park
8:30pm, Thurs. - Saturday, Aug. 12-14

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