Friday, July 28, 2017

Cloverdale Playhouse: "Peter Pan"

Disclosure: the reviewer is a member of the Board of The Cloverdale Playhouse.

The Cloverdale Playhouse's sold-out run of J. M. Barrie's beloved Peter Pan, with its mix of young and adult actors, continues this weekend under Jason Morgan's inventive direction. Time passes quickly in this production, as we are caught up in the dynamic energy of the strong ensemble actors, the flexibility of the Playhouse's long thrust stage, the inventive and colorful costumes, and the uninhibited truthful  reactions from several younger members of the audience. -- There is some magic going on here.

Audiences are transported to "Neverland" along with Wendy [Piper Doyle], John [Dan Jordan] and Michael [Jake Jordan], as their nursery-bedroom becomes the home of the Lost Boys, a Pirate Ship, and the several other locations in "Neverland" where Peter Pan [Kendrick Golson] -- the leader of the Lost Boys who is determined to "never grow up" -- has brought them, with a sprinkling of pixie-dust compliments of Tinkerbell [Emily Witcher, who also plays the children's mother Mrs. Darling] -- so that Wendy can regale them with stories and become their surrogate Mother. Tinkerbell's jealous streak almost dooms Wendy, and Peter sends her away.

Peter's arch-enemy, the dastardly Captain Hook [Matthew Klinger] -- pursued by the Croccodile that bit off his hand [Steven Majors also plays Nana, the children's "nanny" dog] -- and his cohort of pirates, have captured Tiger Lily [Percionna Hale]; the ever resourceful Peter and his crew rescue her, and things seem to settle down for the moment.

When the children get homesick, their plans of returning are temporarily thwarted by Captain Hook, who also poisons Tinkerbell; but their return home, to be reunited with their doting parents [Ms. Witcher and John McWilliams as Mr. Darling] with all the Lost Boys except Peter in tow, is guaranteed; and Peter promises to return each year to take Wendy back to Neverland at Spring-cleaning time.

While there are a few rushed moments [for example: bringing Tinkerbell back to life by asking: Do you  believe in Fairies? and needing time for "clapping" to bring her back], and a lot of rapid speech that blurs articulation of important plot details, the story and its characters are clear.

The ensemble is a good one, but special notice goes to Mr. McWilliams's portrayal of the stuffy Mr. Darling who nonetheless endears himself with his resistance to display emotion; and to Mr. Klinger's sly and nasty Captain Hook; and to Ms. Doyle's truthful depiction of Wendy's charm, intelligence, and awkward-age need to be treated as an adult.

Holding it all together is Mr. Golson's Peter Pan. Not only does he turn in a remarkably athletic performance, but his ever-ready smile and optimistic outlook in the role makes him completely believable as the boy who won't grow up, and his generous shared relationships with the Darling children, the Lost Boys, Tiger Lily, the Mermaids, the Pirates and Captain Hook keep him the center of attention throughout.

This is the first time the Playhouse Troupe has had a production in the main season at the Cloverdale Playhouse. -- If this is any indication of the quality and audience support, let us hope it continues.