note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi
based on the novel by J. M. Barrie
directed by Shawn LaCount
Michael Darling ….. Ryan Garvin
John Darling …. Kristian Williams
Wendy Darling ….. Medina Mahfuz
Mary Darling ….. Holly Newman
George Darling ….. T. J. Schubert
Shadow ….. Takeo Kushi
Peter Pan ….. Ozzie Carnan
Tinker Bell ….. Chiara Durazzini
Tootles ….. Chelsea Maher
Slightly ….. Mark VanDerzee
Stubs ….. Rich Arum
First Twin ….. Stefon Thomas
Second Twin ….. Takeo Kushi
Nibs ….. Terri Deletetsky
Noodler ….. Meghan Snowden
Starkey ….. Mason Sand
Captain Hook ….. Theodore J. Schubert, III
Smee ….. Summer L. Williams
Mullins ….. Tony Dangerfield
Cecco ….. Violet Kabaso
For the next month or so, Peter Pan – the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up – can be found at the Boston Center for the Arts in Company One’s updated version of his tale, now simply entitled PAN. Though the ads suggest something Quite New (“Visit Neverland as you have never seen it before”), much of PAN is blessedly old-fashioned in spirit and will still enchant children – of all ages.
Company One tinkers little with the basic plot: Peter still enters the Darling household via the nursery window to spirit its children – Wendy, John and Michael – off to Neverland for fun and adventure; and he still battles his nemesis, the pirate Captain Hook, whose hand he had previously cut off and tossed to a crocodile. (The “flying” powder sprinkled on the children is still fairy dust; there isn’t a crack or HIV+ Lost Boy in the pack; and not once does the Captain lay a lecherous hook on a minor.) On the other hand, there are no flights-by-wire; Nannah the Dog barks offstage and the Crocodile is mentioned in passing – neither animal makes an appearance; Tinkerbell is not poisoned, robbing Peter of his “Do you believe in fairies?” moment with the audience; and Tiger Lily and her Indians are omitted altogether. Other than that, what is New about this PAN? Aside from some modern-day props (a video game; a cell phone), a few topical references, and racial and gender-crossing (done so often nowadays that it’s become traditional), Company One’s main contributions are (1) its interpretation of Hook; and (2) the Closing Scene. The former is clever in concept but unsuccessful in execution; the latter suddenly, swiftly yanks Peter out of the Victorian era from which he was born and drops him into new, uncharted territory.
As you may remember, the original Hook and his pirate crew wish to annihilate Peter and his Lost Boys. Here – done in video format – Hook is a corporate monster, viewed from behind; and his cronies become ad men/women, endlessly thinking up new campaigns to lure the Lost Boys in joining up with them. The video’s murky soundtrack blunts much of the already leaden satire, but even had the soundtrack been crystal clear, children (and a few adults?) may still not know what’s going on – and why. Ah, but the Closing Scene! After much back-and-forth teasing, Wendy finally kisses Peter on the mouth when they part. The play immediately ends with Peter crowing in delight – he has just discovered Sex. Pity that it doesn’t continue – what will Peter do next? Grow up?
Ozzie Carnan, a most agile young man, plays Peter – and if casting a young man in a role traditionally played by women doesn’t strike me as being New, it’s because my attitude is, “Why did it take so long?” Mr. Carnan is a natural as Peter (played conventionally, thank you), nicely blending wildness and innocence together, and he leaps and tumbles so effortlessly that you soon forget that the lack of theatre space prevents him from flying.
Medinia Mahfuz's Wendy is also quite conventional: prim and proper – a future Ball and Chain; and Kristian Williams -– slow-talking and slouching – and Ryan Garvin -– a droll child – are amusing as a pair of Darling brothers very much planted in Today. Theodore J. Schubert, III, when he DOES appear in person, gives us a Hook of quiet majesty but little more (with no Crocodile pursuing him, he simply exits after the battle), and Chiara Durazzini’s gibbering Tinkerbell should have remained Scene One’s brilliant red dot of light – so often, Less is More! The Lost Boys leap and tumble as much as Mr. Carnan does but lack his grace (they go BUMP! long into the night); but one of them, Takeo Kushi, does a cute turn as Peter’s shadow (the two of them boogie joyously when reunited).
Scene One – the Darling nursery – is staged outside the Black Box Theatre, with the audience sitting or standing nearby (come early to claim your patch of rug). Upon entering the Black Box Theatre, you enter a brilliantly designed Neverland with its trees, nooks and flowing stream (real water, complete with a sand bed) – the setting reminded me of the long-gone Sweet Enchantment candy store on Newbury Street, where customers purchased sweets that they found in tree hollows. In a stunning bit of theatre, director Shawn LaCount even manages to bring Hook’s ship into this little world – I won’t say how; after all, isn’t that what Peter Pan is all about – Magic?
On the night I attended, I was surprised to see far more adults than children in the audience; no doubt, Peter’s tale continues to reach out to us even though we oldsters have long outgrown him. Though flawed and earthbound, Company One’s PAN still casts its spell. Try to see it while it’s here, for Peter Lives!