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Flash Review 3, 2-8: At Play with
the Comfortable and Disturbing
Mining Love and Other Wonders in Mabou Mines's "Peter and Wendy"
By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2002 Peggy H. Cheng
NEW YORK -- It is immediately apparent
that there are many people hard at work in the magical Mabou Mines production
of "Peter and Wendy," being presented by the
New Victory Theater through February 24. Karen Kandel, as all the voices in
the Darling nursery and Neverland in this adaptation of J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan,"
also acts as narrator/storyteller. In the meantime, puppeteers (seven in all)
and musicians (six in the performance seen Saturday), in what appears to be a
seamless collaborative effort with speaker Kandel, bring all the characters to
The production is aptly named "Peter
and Wendy" for it focuses on an odd, sad love affair between the boy who won't
grow up and a beyond-sweet girl who is lured from the safety of her nursery (and
her Nana -- a prim, prancing Retriever who keeps the Darling charges in step).
Strangely disconcerting is Peter and the Lost Boys' insistence that Wendy become
their mother -- to take care of them and their home. She readily does this, and
readily adores her Peter, in competition with the tiny but aggressive Tinkerbell
and later, a sexy Tiger Lily. The Peter/Wendy relationship seems to be in parallel
to the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Darling: Mr. Darling is childish and vies (against
Nana) for the attention of his wife and children much as Peter crows "Me, me,
me..." in a call for recognition. Mrs. Darling is beautiful, graceful, and has
her children's pure, un-jaded love much as Wendy is immediately tapped by Peter
and the Lost Boys for her apparent natural inclination to want to care for them.
Kandel and the puppeteers are at
play in a most delightful way. Her transformations of voice and body are as fascinating
as the transformations of the puppeteers. Dressed in white and with faces masked
at all times, the puppeteers (including Master Puppeteers Basil Twist and Jane
Catherine Shaw with Sam Hack, Lute Ramblin', Sarah Provost, Jessica Chandlee Smith,
and Jenny Subjack) work, often together, to bring characters to life with carefully
crafted choreography of their bodies, clothing, masks, paper, cloth puppets, wooden
puppets, shadows and light, and a set of finger cymbals (Tinkerbell). The musicians,
playing and singing live, add another dimension of transformation to the theater,
giving us a fitting soundtrack to "Peter and Wendy."
What the piece depicts of childhood,
and the mind of a child, is served well by all the transformations that take place
before us, bringing life to formerly lifeless objects, and informing our eyes
and ears that it is possible for your imagination to come to life on stage. At
times I found the piece intensely sad and odd, especially in its examination of
the various characters' feelings on love, particularly between adults and children
-- this makes the piece, thankfully, fertile ground for both the comfortable and
disturbing in our imaginations.
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