Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Director Alan Paul and his bountifully talented cast have created a lavish production for both the eyes and ears, from Jason Sherwood's enveloping sets and Isabella Byrd's often otherworldly lighting design to Loren Shaw's costumes, Jared Mezzocchi's projections, James Ortiz's puppet design, Jenny Giering's score, and John Gromada's sound design.
Gunderson sets the play in London in 1903, shortly after Marie Curie received the first of her two Nobel Prizes. Wendy Darling (Sinclair Daniel) has a restless mind and a fierce intelligence; while her well-meaning mother (Jenni Barber) wants to send her to finishing school to learn proper domestic arts, Wendy would rather study astronomy. When Peter Pan (Justin Mark) appears at the window, trying to reclaim his lost shadow (an ingenious bit of, yes, shadow puppetry), Wendy eagerly wants to learn more about him and his friend Tinkerbell, a ball of light that Wendy mistakes for an errant star.
Soon, Wendy and her younger brothers John (Christopher Flaim) and Michael (Chauncey Chestnut) are joining Peter in the skies between London and Neverland. Paul Rubin has choreographed the flying sequences to fit seamlessly in the narrative, just another wonder in a stage full of them.
Gunderson also has reimagined Tiger Lily (Isabella Star LaBlanc) as the last remaining indigenous resident of Neverland rather than a cartoonish "savage." Like Wendy, she knows her own mind; she has no patience with the invaders who appropriated the land of her people, whether that means Peter or the foppish, image-obsessed Captain Hook (the deliciously hammy Derek Smith). Also, like Wendy, she understands that Peter's refusal to grow up has its negative aspects.
Other standouts in the large, accomplished cast include Tom Story, hilariously obsequious as Hook's sidekick Smee, and Barber, who also embodies Tinkerbell in Neverland with a serious attitude and a costume that suggests an Edwardian chorus girl. And then there's the casting of Nana, the dog serving as nanny to the Darling children, who earns "Aw"s with every entrance.
Shakespeare Theatre Company