BWW Review: Synetic Theatre's PETER PAN is a Joyous but Mature Celebration of Neverland
Given that it's the time of year when Synetic brings out ghoulish Halloween fare, the choice of a children's favorite like Peter Pan may come as a bit of a surprise. But in this incarnation, adapted in fine fashion by Ed Monk, this is a Peter with bite - and enough darkness to keep even the grownups on the edge of their seat.
You know you're in for a very different story when the show opens at a gravesite, where Peter mourns the death of his beloved sister. To the strains of Arvo Pärt's famous choral piece Te Deum, we see him distraught, but then elated as she magically reappears in the form of a fairy. A gutsy, egotistical fairy, to boot - Ana Tsikurishvili is delightful as Tinkerbell, a sprite complete with all the jealousies and cutting jibes of her former, human self. Her presence is enhanced by costume designer Kendra Rai's ingenious lighting effects-which you see here!
There's enough humor and adventure here to keep the kids entertained, especially when John and Michael Darling (played with childish relish by Thomas Beheler and Scott Whalen) start off with one of those ridiculous bed-jumping competitions we got away with, well, back in the day. Their big sister, Wendy Darling, is played charmingly by Kathy Gordon, who nicely manages the feat of being the "responsible" elder sibling but clearly not yet ready for adulthood.
OK so at this point, you're wondering: do they fly? The answer is yes, but in a unique fashion that only Synetic could come up with; it has to be seen, and it will be believed.
One of the most inspired sequences here, however, is Zana Gankhuyag's turn as Peter's Shadow; the competition between the Shadow and Real Peter makes for some incredibly kinetic sequences, as hilarious as they are exhausting to watch; Gankhuyag has the chops required to keep up with Alex Mills' amazing moves.
Daniel Pinha's set consists mainly of two movable pieces, one side of which seems designed to evoke the rocky strata of the seaside-the other, of course, transforms into the grand pirate ship of Captain Hook. Hook and his crew are as dim-witted and arrogant as, well, certain personalities currently holding forth across the river in Washington. As Hook, Ryan Sellers has all the ego and foolishness you could ask for, and Monk has provided him and his loyal assistant Smee (the hilariously rotund Nathan Weinberger) with dialogue that would put any White House press conference to shame.
[Which could be a sign of things to come: during the dark days of the Soviet Union, when censorship of the stage was at its height, many artists retreated to The Children's Theatres. There, writers like Evgeny Schwartz could craft modern fairy tales the meaning of which went right over the kids' heads, but which resonated deeply with their parents.]
So there you have it, folks - another fantastical production from Synetic, with some biting political satire for the grown-ups and a wealth of adventurous gymnastics to keep even the most restless of pre-schoolers glued to the stage. Can't be beat, can it?
Photo credit: Ana Tsikurishvili as Tinkerbell. Photo by Johnny Shryock.
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, without intermission.
Performances of Peter Pan run through November 19 at Synetic Theater, Crystal City, 1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington VA.
Tickets can be ordered by calling 866-811-4111 or logging into: www.synetictheater.org