Peter and Wendy Soars!

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Richard Termine 01, L-R: Basil Twist, Sam Hack and Sarah Provost as Peter, and Karen Kandel as The Narrator

Below is the review of Mabou Mines’ incomparable Peter and Wendy, from Baristanet (I hope you’ll go there and read the rest!).  Video and preview from this blog are here.  And you can listen to performer Karen Kandel, and adaptor Liza Lorwin, on last week’s podcast.
This show is one my all-time favorites in theatre.  EVER.  I’ve seen a lot of theatre over the years.
It perfectly blends the New York (experimental Theatre troupe!) with the Irish (the music, the Scottish story, the mood).

Mabou Mines’ Peter and Wendy Soars

BY  |  Friday, May 13, 2011 12:57pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Richard Termine 03, L-R: Karen Kandel as The Narrator, and Basil Twist, Sam Hack and Sarah Provost as Peter

Children giggled.  Adults wept.  “Mommy, why was that lady crying?  Why are people sad?” a little boy waiting in line to use the restroom at the lovely New Victory Theatre on 42nd Steet asked.  I heard her try to explain that it was about loss, and love, but he,  about 6, was, like the chilldren in J.M. Barrie’s masterpiece, Peter Pan, “gay, and innocent, and heartless.”    Mabou Mines’ version of the story opens by reminding you that “all children grow up” and that “two is the beginning of the end.”  Though full of adventure and fun, there is a melancholy  in Barrie’s story about the boy who never grows up.  The melancholy is hiding in plain sight, like the kiss at the side of Mrs. Darling’s mouth that her daughter Wendy could never get.  Children won’t notice it.  But adults won’t be able to miss it.  I cried during the last half hour of the show more than I did at King Lear.

But it’s also lots of fun.   From the moment it begins, it’s breathtakingly beautiful, subtle, funny, fresh.  And the sound effects and music are provided by a top-notch Celtic band, playing the exquisite music of  the late Scottish fiddler/composer Johnny Cunninghamincluding Irish fiddler Tola Custy, Scottish singer Siobhan Miller, harpist Laoise Kelly,  guitarist Aidan Brennan, Steph Geremia, Alan Kelly and Jay Peck– not to mention the slides and booms and beeps.  Tinker Bell is a cymbal in performer Karen Kandel’s hand.  Kandel, who has won an OBIE award for this performance, does all the voices.  There’s also  terrific video, particularly the sequence of the children’s flight to Never Land, with a kid’s eye view zooming along over the top of things.  Director Lee Breur assumes children are just as smart as grown-ups, and the show moves quickly.  Simply, this is one of the best, most enchanting, fully satisfying pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.  Ever.    If you haven’t taken the kids to New Victory, it’s well worth the commute– the lovely old theatre on 42nd Street specializes in children’s theatre from top-rate companies around the world.  There are booster stools in the bathrooms, and toys for sale in the lobby.  When you look up, you see carved angels.  And it’s a fraction of the price you pay for Broadway extravaganzas aimed at kids (and more than twice as satisfying).  The New Victory presents real family fare, with simplicity and giggle for kids,  depth and nuance for adults.

Liza Lorwin’s adaptation mixes story theatre, reading from  Barrie’s sly, droll prose, with the visual brio that the experimental troupe Mabou Mines is known for.   Designer Julie Archer was inspired by pop-up books, and early on in the story we watch as the home of the Darlings, and Nana’s kennel, literally unfold and expand, just like those paper wonders.  While Kandel narrates and speaks,  characters are  moved and embodied  by a crack team of puppetteers with veiled faces.  Kandel even does the expressive “woof” of Nana.  It takes several puppeteers to move the dog nurse around, what with all those legs and ears and tail, and she seems 100% alive.  Early on, when the Darlings are mourning the children who’ve hearlessly flown away, Nana wipes a paw on a pillow, sniffs it, and blows her nose on her ears, before howling (Archer  designed the set, puppets, and lights).  At one point Kandel somehow manages to be both Mr. and Mrs. Darling at once (spinning a bowler hat on a cane), as well as the narrator.  It’s an incredible tour de force, but it’s also filled with emotion and heart.
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