Extends AGAIN Thru Jan 23rd: Lookingglass' "Peter Pan": Whimsical Spectacle Swirled in Dark Realism

EXTENDS THRU January 23rd

Lookingglass Theatre presents


At 821 N. Michigan
Adapted from the books by J.M. Barrie
Adapted and directed by Amanda Dehnert
Wednesdays thru Sunday at 7:30pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm
Thru December 12th
Running Time:  Two hours and twenty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Grown-ups pretending to be kids make believing a world without parental control.  They want to play motherless.  Or do they?  It’s the philosophical spin on a classic fairytale.   Lookingglass Theatre presents PETER PAN, the world premiere of Amanda Dehnert’s interpretation of J.M. Barrie’s storybooks.  The main story remains intact.  Peter Pan lives in Neverland.  Tinker Bell is his fairy.  Captain Hook is his nemesis.   This PETER PAN starts with the cast wandering onto the industrial stark stage.   The audience is still settling into their seats as the make-believe has already started.  The cast interact with child-like wonder over lights turning on.  The official fantasy begins when the story is read.  Throughout the show, narration duties are shared among the ensemble.  It is actors playing kids playing theatre.   Playtime! There are a plethora of staged, filmed and cartooned versions of the famous boy who effectively avoided growing up.  Dehnert’s adaptation is a whimsical spectacle swirled in dark realism.  

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Under the direction of Dehnert, the large cast gets their kid on!  They shave years off their lives with anti-aging acting.   They run and fly with death-defying innocence.  (The exception is Raymond Fox.  With his creepy TRUST performance still looming in my imagination, I fear he is a predator in disguise.)  Looking like Mark Wahlberg’s youth, Ryan Nunn (Peter) charms with eternal boyishness.  He is hilariously real with cluelessness about girls and propensity to forget the past.  Kay Kron (Wendy) enchants as a girl playing mother.  Kron’s startled reaction to becoming her mother is Neverland funny and later real world poignant.  Peter’s other girl, Aislinn Mulligan (Tinker Bell) is a real-life nymph.  She mischievously dances around and twirls in the air without a harness. Magical!   Adorable and adoptable, Alex Weisman’s (Michael) cherubic appearance zings the one-liners.  Playing the exact opposite,  Thomas J. Cox (Hook) is wickedly sinister.  Cox kicks up the fear factor with an uncomfortable fondle of Wendy.  Icky!  Smee, on the other hand, gets a bad guy reprieve with a bittersweet backstory.  Molly Brennan (Smee) is the lost mom turned pirate.  With stellar comedic timing and facial expressions, Brennan tries to mother her way into everyone’s hearts.  The entire cast is a dream comes true!  They illuminate the reality of the pretend with boundless energy and excitement.          

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PETER PAN is a story about the imagination.  Although this flying illusion doesn’t try to hide the ropes and harnesses, the airborne stunts are still engaging and enticing.  The real fantastical visuals are the entrances of the lost boys and then the pirates.  Both groups’ arrivals are surprising moments of pulsating theatrics.  The costumes designed by Melissa Torchia are all makeshift outfits of kids playing dress up.  The pirates are underworld phenomenal.  It’s a scary movie spoof as Torchia picked through the closets of Hannibal Lector, Freddy Kruger, and friends.  Lookingglass’ PETER PAN has some Grimm-esque qualities.  As the story goes, people die.  Peter Pan may or may not be dead.  It’s not your happily-everafter bedtime fave.  In a world of make-believe without parental control, parental guidance suggested.  Because for awhile it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, killed or worse… grows up.  The spell is broken when the story’s conclusion announces the characters’ fates.  And this time, despite thunderous applause, Tinker Bell is gone for good.
‘You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming?’ That place is Lookingglass Theatre


Production photography courtesy of Sean Williams.

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