When you think of Peter Pan on stage, visions of Mary Martin and/or Cathy Rigby come to mind. You think of a light-hearted musical for the entire family. But what if Tim Burton had directed Peter Pan for the stage with his signature dark-side vision? This is the approach No Rules Theatre Company has taken with its first World Premiere of Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers.
Director and Adapter Michael Lluberes has gone back to J.M. Barrie’s original novel Peter and Wendy to create a more gritty and sometimes disturbing take on the classic story of the boy that wouldn’t grow up. Peter (John Evans Reese) is considerably more jaded than you are used to seeing him. He has a very grim outlook on mothers and wishes death upon them. Captain Hook is played by a female (Lisa Hodsoll) which is what Barrie had always intended in his stage productions. This production also has a unique way of flying in the show. It’s a very inventive production.
Everybody in the cast is first-rate. John Evans Reese as Peter brings a multi-layered performance, at times stubborn and combative, while also displaying tenderness particularly in Tinkerbell’s almost-death scene.
Lisa Hodsoll as Captain Hook and Mrs. Darling gives a powerhouse performance. Her Hook costume is a cross between Edward Scissorhands’ black stained costume complete with thick, stacked boot soles. Unlike many other versions of Peter Pan, this Hook is played with little or no humor, yet the subtleties in Hodsoll’s performance makes the character more human and less cartoon-like. There are still scary moments with the mad pirate when he makes the kids and Peter walk the plank.
Wendy Darling’s motherly love is portrayed charmingly by Megan Graves. The scenes between her and Peter are quite emotional and heartfelt, and the chemistry between her and her brother John (Joshua Rosenblum) is evident when they appear at the top of the play in their nursery. Rosenblum gives a light-hearted and often-times magical and enjoyable performance as Wendy’s brother. Rosenblum who is a member of Synetic Theater is given a chance to speak and show off his acting chops.
The very busy Maya Jackson, Nathaniel Mendez and Adam Downs splendidly portray the inquisitive Lost Boys, as well as nasty pirates on Hook’s ship. Jackson also does a turn as Tiger Lily – the captured Redskin. I particularly enjoyed Downs’ eccentric portrayal of Smee, who looked like he stepped right out of a chilling scene from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
Daniel Pinha has designed an unsettling, dark, gloomy, and very effective set complete with blood-soaked walls and compartments for the actors to hide in the intimate H Street Playhouse space. Brandon R. McWilliams’ costumes add to the dark mood, as does Carrie Wood’s ingenious lighting which has overcome the limitations of the the very low lighting grid and Elisheba Ittoop’s haunting sound design and original music creates a very surreal world with the soundtrack.
Kudos to Stage Manager Theresa Hindersinn, who is running lights, sound, smoke and haze during the show.
Lluberes has done a fine job adapting and directing this innovative production of Peter Pan while staying true to Barrie’s original work.
No Rules Theatre Company has reached new heights with their first World Premiere. With a stellar cast and superb production values – ‘come away’ and fly over to H Street Playhouse and see Peter Pan.. It’s a journey well worth taking.
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission.