(Photo courtesy No Rules Theatre Company)
The entertainment we are consuming has taken a turn towards the dark side. The likes of Adam West’s Batman and Christopher Reeve’s Superman are long gone, replaced with darker retellings of our classic stories and heroes. Christopher Nolan re-imagined Batman with his Dark Knight trilogy and even Disney, the biggest name behind the glitter and glam of the 90’s, tapped Tim Burton when it decided to make Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time have taken our childhood fairy tales and turned them into chilling dramas.
That being said, it’s only fitting that No Rules Theatre Company‘s production of Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers would be grittier than anything that Cathy Rigby would do.
By the way, I can’t believe she’s still playing the role at 58.
This week the production opened at the H Street Playhouse, I talked with cast members Adam Downs, Nathan Mendez, and John Evans Reese (who plays Pan) about Michael Lluberes’ adaptation of the classic J. M. Barrie tale.
The phrase “darker adaption” was thrown around a lot during our conversation but Downs adds, “you can call it darker but you can also say the stakes are more real.”
There are no songs, no sugar coating, no spectacle with Pan. Instead the show works out to be an essential reaction to the “Disney-fication” of our youth. A leap away from happily ever after and more towards something more authentic and real, as described by Reese.
“We’re really hungry for the truth,” Reese explains, “so what is true about Peter Pan? He steals children, takes them back, thins then out when they start growing up…there’s so much death in this story that’s been glittered.”
To play Peter Pan has been a dream role for Reese, and to hear the new spin of No Rules’ production sealed the deal, motivating him to send an audition tape to the director.
“It’s been so sugar coated this whole time and what appealed to me this time was that we were going to get gritty,” Reese explains. Nathan, who plays a member of Pan’s crew of lost boys, adds that this certainly will not be the Pan you have seen in cartoons, citing the production note that the show will be best suited for those ages 10 and up.
“I guarantee there’s going to be a scary moment here and there.”
The intimate space of the H Street Playhouse will lend for a show that will be more raw, physical, and transparent. The cast described the show as having the look and feel of a story-time re-enactment.
“We don’t have glitter and fairy dust,” Adams said, “The way that we tell it is theatrical but not with wires and flying.”
“You see everything. We’re not trying to hide anything. We want you to play with us,” Mendez added.
The original music production featured a cast around 30 while this production sports a cast of just seven. Many on the cast will double in different roles including an interesting choice of actress Lisa Hodsoll playing both the Darling family mother and Captain Hook. The juxtaposition of the mother role with Pan’s arch nemesis is more than just coincidence.
No Rules’ new take on Pan is very fitting with the current evolution of tastes and a new age of the modern age “lost boy” image of men.
In talking about how this show could relate with the “Peter Pan” syndrome today’s young males are experiencing Downs saw a clear correlation.
“For me it applies so much to people in their 20’s the idea of leaving home and not be reliant on anybody anymore, facing the real world and how scary that is.” Downs also hinted that the fantasy of dodging adulthood and not growing up is aided by technology and social media.
“Role playing, video games, and Facebook is the new Neverland,” Downs explained to which Reese retorted, “I hope not- that’s so sad! There’ll be no new stories because people have everything in front of them.”
However for the cast and crew of Peter Pan, what they have is something that is indeed new, a palette cleanser after years of fairy tale saccharine.
No Rules Theatre Company’s production of Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers performs through March 3 at the H Street Playhouse, located at 1365 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Closest Metro stop: Union Station (Red Line). For more information call 336-462-9182.