Building forts, battling evil, and playing house are all trademarks of childhood. Who among us has never fought over who would play the mother or pulled apart the living room to get the best cushion walls? But eventually we all grew up, took on new interests and new responsibilities. All of us, that is, except for Peter Pan.
McLean High School’s “The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan” is certainly not your classic Disney story. This darker version of the J.M. Barrie classic was written by Phillip C. Kalpperich in 2002. The show follows Peter, Wendy, and the lost boys through Neverland, a projection of Peter’s psyche. Throughout the show Peter battles with himself, his shadow, and Wendy while struggling to avoid adulthood. The playful, creative world of Neverland was contrasted by the stark and serious doctor’s office where Peter and the Lost Boys were psychoanalyzed.
Such moments of solemn introspection were broken up into short episodes between scene changes and comic relief. This comic relief was provided by Peter Pan (Nick Stone) and his shadow (Elliott Duffy), who complimented each other perfectly in attitude, styling, and movement. They sneered and walked in perfect synchronization; their outfits were subtly similar, yet each had their own unique personality.
The ensemble shone just as brightly as the second star on the right, where Neverland is located. The ensemble was separated into different populations: The Redskins, the Pirates, the Lost Boys, and the Mermaids. Each actor created their own personality that shone on its own and added depth to the group. Shining exceptionally bright were Tootles (Aster Ryu), Slightly (Max Johnson), and Curly (Damian Leverett), as Lost Boys. Each personified an image of childhood expertly, and always had the audience laughing. Tiger Lily (Lexie Shoaibi) also deserves mention for her intense portrayal of an Indian princess. Lexie maintained her character all throughout her powerful monologue, and when on stage for an entire scene without speaking a word. The ensemble as a whole fed off of each others’ energy and was a perfect complement to the show.
The show was clipped into short episodes where the scenes were changed in quick blackouts. The set, while simple in construction and complex in details provided sturdy scenery for the Darlings’ apartment, the pirate ship, and home of the Lost Boys. Scenes were changed by simple details added by the actors on stage which, although sometimes distracting, provided a feeling of cozy nostalgia as a living room was turned into a pirate ship.
Perhaps most astounding was the level of detail that went into each member of the ensemble’s styling. Each cast member had their own individual look that flattered both their character and their assembly. Makeup elements such as arm tattoos on the pirates and war paint on the Indians was an impressive detail, though the accessories occasionally took away from the facial expressions of the actors. Composed by student Damian Leverett, who also played Curly, the music provided by the tiny orchestra accompanied commanding monologues and silent war scenes, tracing the emotions of each scene.
As the lights dimmed on an emotional last scene, the audience was left to contemplate the power of imagination, love and memory. Though a sullen ending leaving you to remember that you will grow up, it’s nice to know you can always leave the bedroom window open in hopes of Peter coming for a visit.
Mariah Kahn is a member of The Critics and Award Program, Cappies, and a student at South County Secondary School.