Monday, July 13, 2015

Amanda Platsis' "Pan" at the Paper Wing Theatre!

“Pan” –

Firstly, don’t confuse this play with the original production so recently recreated by NBC Studios and most famously adapted by Disney animation. The mythology of Peter Pan has often been explored far beyond the source material by JM Barrie, and local playwright Amanda Platsis’ script develops a follow-up to the original with a focus on Wendy’s daughter, Jane Darling. Her adventure in Neverland is going to be a little different from her mother and it’s an adventure that the boy who could fly may not be entirely prepared for. Actress Maris Welch is perfectly cast as a far different contrast to the maternal Wendy of the original story- she’s sarcastic at times, defensive, infatuated, and fearful of her feelings and responsibilities.

This is where I sort of wish I was a better writer, because I have no segue here to talk about her singing.  Jane isn’t the storyteller her mother was, but she can sing- and she offers a small selection of softly sung lullaby’s in a few key moments. Maris’ voice is amazing.  

Jane is given a guided tour of Neverland. She’s introduced to vivacious mermaids and groovy Hippies (in place of the original story’s Indians) and it’s far out leader, Princess Tiger Lilly. All while Pan ostensibly promises to rescue Damien; Jane’s adopted brother.

Whereas the original material explored themes of childhood, innocence, and responsibility this follow up brings Neverland to a confusing adolescence ripe with the dreaded onslaught of “Puberty” and what it’s like to have those feelings change everything inside and around you. Platsis explores themes of infatuation, love, attraction, flirtation, rejection, confusion and dangerous obsession. The story itself flows easily from one scene to the next with a solid arc for the character of Pan.

Speaking of Pan, Actor Devin Adler has an unbelievable amount of energy throughout the show and is leaping, twirling, and dueling his way throughout the performance with a passion that simply made my old bones weary to watch. I was incredibly impressed with it and even more so when the actor knew just went to pull back into himself in an attempt to protect Pans’ fragile feelings. His Lost Boys are a solid ensemble, playing off one another excellently and continuing to bring that same reflection of energy with Pan.

Pan is opposed, as ever, by Captain James Hook (Patrick Golden). Excellent. Hook is the perfect foil for the openhearted Pan that Platsis develops- an older, embittered, and largely rejected man caught within the circle of his own adolescent obsession and dragging others down with him. We find his ship crewed by others who have fallen to similar heartbreak, each one carrying a deeper scar than is obvious at first sight. While the Lost Boys remain cohesive, the Pirates are divided and contemptuous of one another save for those moments of obsession and sadistic joy in tormenting the people who do not understand their pain.

I know how exciting it is for an actor to read their name in print and in a review, but the cast is exhaustive and long and all are extremely capable at capturing several moments throughout the show. I hate to throw a blanket over them all with a cover term of “excellent” because their performances were more than that- they were distinctive and each brought something different to the table. But I can't sit here and just list a bunch of names and adjectives and for that I apologize. But I do want to call out four of the cast, especially; the dueling faeries of Tinkerbell (Kelsey Posey) and Jessica (Beverly Van Pelt) have great chemistry and draw the eye in several large battle scenes, but not without drawing focus. They’re story is well done and much of what is told is done with a gesture or a stare. Schmee also brings a bizarre humor to the story as a Caliban-esque tortured soul. Topher Sullenger takes a couple of risks with the character that all pay off with some hilarious gestures, line deliveries, and pratfalls. But the person I really want to give a shout out to is Cody Moore- I’d heard a lot about his puppetry and voice work with regards to the Crocodile and it’s as impressive as expected. But hearing so much from others who saw the show before me, I simply wasn’t prepared for the amazingly physical performance he brought as Pan’s “Shadow”. Simply put, it blew me away.

The costumes and set designs are impressive! This viewer couldn’t help but draw a few comparisons to Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and other Henson-created imagery from the 80’s. This stuff is beautiful to watch. The lighting and colors pull one another,  setting mood and adjusting focus from one character to the next as they walk from color of light to the next.  

But, while the Set Design is a wonder behold… it’s also a bit of a frustration. While the moving set is beautiful to watch, the scene changes felt a little long and the lack of a significant fade made it confusing when actors would drop character to leave the set. It’s not something I’m used to and pulled me from the moment on occasion.

4 out of 5 and a definite must-see for the summer.

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