If you haven’t assumed that reinterpretation of J.M. Barrie’s iconic story by a company called Bedlam would wreck havoc with childhood memories, then a prologue voice-over stipulating endlessly complicated copyright terms might give you a hint. So, in fact, would John McDermott’s Astro Turf Set and Charlotte Palmer-Lane’s trunk-in-the-attic, jumble costuming (except the neat crocodile). Contemporizing the piece is only a fraction of its irregularities.
Brad Heberlee, Kelley Curran, Susannah Millonzi
Though the original 1904 play is alas, rarely seen, it’s impossible not to be familiar with and likely love the story. In order to “get” what’s going on, however, recollection has to be sharp and specific. Because the irreverent troop has put dialogue and scenes in a grab bag and drawn them higgledy-piggledy, events are played in unrecognizable sequence, often overlap, and are voiced by actors playing multiple roles without even a prop to differentiate.
I admit to having trouble with Michael (nerd-looking Susannah Millonzi) also playing Tinkerbell (without Michael’s glasses, in garbled French – oh, and she smokes) and Mrs. Darling (a blowsy Zuzanna Szadkowski) appearing as Captain Hook. Curiously, it’s easier to accept Nana (the dog) morphing into Peter Pan (Brad Heberlee, whose physical acting is as thoroughly appealing as dramatic turns). Eric Tucker (think John Cleese) is an excellent, wry Mr. Darling, Kelley Curran a rather adult Wendy, Edmund Lewis is John.
Zuzanna Szadkowski, Edmund Lewis, Eric Tucker
Despite Mrs. Darling’s having seen a face at the window, Mr. Darling insists Nana be chained in her dog house, inadvertently facilitating Peter Pan’s access to the children’s bedroom. (He pays for this later by literally repenting in her kennel.) “Dear nightlights that protect me sleeping children…” After Peter wrestles with his uncooperative shadow, Wendy physically entwines him as if in experienced heat. They end up slow dancing to “I Put a Spell on You.” Later, Mrs. Darling has a red hot mama bit.
Meanwhile Mr. Darling pulls a gun on Nana. (Necessary?!) Get the idea? Iconic quotes are interjected in the topsy-turvy storyline. The children never leave the stage floor while a voice-over describes Flying by Foy, the company so often used to propel actors to Neverland.
Brad Heberlee, Edmund Lewis, Kelley Curran, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Susannah Millonzi
When Tink convinces the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy from the sky, she’s carried in holding an absurdly big arrow (fine) and recovers in a beach chair wearing a floppy hat and shades (?!) She sometimes flies by moving slowly forward on the back of a crawling cast member (great.) Characters frequently make us aware they know they’re playacting. Music ranges from French pop to vaudeville to R & B. Use of an awning (flap) window on one side of the stage and a pet portal door at the other helps make entrances and exits appealing.
Whether you enjoy this depends on your threshold for wacky (whimsy, I think, has a lighter hand). Some of it is amusing, some is wildly imaginative, much is clunky; a singing denouement excessive. Actors have focus and energy, but don’t seem to be enjoying themselves. (Eric Tucker, Director)
Peter Pan’s had a rough time of it over the last few years. Broadway’s Finding Neverland, though not a well written show, at least tried to reflect the magic. Peter Pan Live (NBC television) was a disaster, Sarah Ruhl’s Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday a huge disappointment, especially considering its authorship. There’s a reason this tale has stood the test of time, but creatives keep thinking they know better.
Photos by Jeremy Daniel
Opening: Susanna Millonzi, Eric Tucker, Kelley Curran, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Edmund Lewis
Bedlam presents Peter Pan
Adapted by the company from the original play by J.M. Barrie
Directed by Eric Tucker
Through December 23, 2017
The Duke on 42nd Street