Peter Pan (A Play)
Considering how well Barrie’s preoccupations—the fetishization of childhood, fear of conformity, flying—mesh with Lookingglass’s own, it’s a wonder the company didn’t get to this story sooner. Stylish and stylized, Dehnert’s adaptation is somewhat reminiscent of Lookingglass Alice in its episodic approach to its source material. The show begins with the entire cast—sans Peter and Hook—in children’s jammies, reading the early passages of Barrie’s Peter and Wendy and choosing roles to play. This bit of Edwardian Muppet Babies business adds little to the proceedings aside from an extra dollop of twee; as we don’t return to this nursery, it seems an unnecessarily slow start.
Once the story’s underway, however, it’s compellingly told. Dehnert and scenic designer Dan Stratton give the show an industrial aesthetic, with the space stripped to the walls and ladders and scaffolding taking the place of Hook’s pirate ship. And there’s plenty of room, of course, for flying. Dehnert chooses to let the strings (or ropes, rather) show, but it’s no less thrilling when Peter (Ryan Nunn), Wendy (Kay Kron), John (Jamie Abelson) and Michael (Alex Weisman) first soar overhead.
The adaptation is mostly faithful to Barrie, though Dehnert cuts the Indians and crafts a new backstory for Molly Brennan’s Smee. There’s some confusion about the setting; the modern vernacular and references don’t jive with the Darlings’ place-and-period-specific family situation. Dehnert’s large cast, though, finds the heart of Barrie’s intent. Nunn brings a cocky, bullheaded charm to the boy who refuses to grow up, embodying Barrie’s cutting description of children: “young and innocent and heartless.”