Theater
3:12 pm
Mon May 6, 2002

Peter Pan

The Trinity Repertory Company puts an American spin on an English adaptation of the 1908 classic "Peter Pan."

Providence, RI –

The English pedigree of this adaptation of "Peter Pan" by National Theatre honchos Trevor Nunn and John Caird counts for little in the Trinity Repertory Company staging. This is a very American take on the story, and a homegrown Peter Pan can only fly so high. Not that Mauro Hantman, as Peter Pan, doesn't have enough fairy dust for liftoff -- latching unto the stage's elaborate system of ropes, the actor whizzes about like a bug in heat. But you are left exhausted by the physicality that never stops, all the jumping, leaping, cartwheeling, tumbling arms akimbo antic business of it. The pathos of "Peter Pan" is lost in a staging that comes off as a hyperventilating cross between the clown act at a kid's birthday party and an Olympic tryout.

The play sticks close to the traditional plot of "Peter Pan." Wendy and her two brothers fly off with Peter to Neverland, where Captain Hook and mermaids crowd the seas. There's more of J.M. Barrie's tale than usual because this new stage version contains a storytelling component -- actors step out of character to fill us in on events or tell us what characters are thinking or feeling.

But director Amanda Denhert doesn't let words slow the show down. In fact, there is so much action it is a relief when Mrs. Darling sings a lullaby to her children. Most of the time, this "Peter Pan" is geared to those with limited attention spans. The set is open and unadorned, the costumes are minimal, its pacing is quick. The cast is made up, for the most part, of twenty-something performers who sing, dance, and do summersaults with athletic grace, though even they look tuckered out on occasion. Acting is a stretch for this crew -- with the exception of Rachael Warren as Wendy, the performers just exude a feel- good cartoon quality. And even Warren can't bring conviction to the show's melancholic ending.

Contemporary cartoons like "Shrek," entertain adults as well as kids with smart humor. "Peter Pan" is from the late Victorian age, so it lacks hip lip. The main attraction for adults is the hilarious Fred Sullivan Jr., who is in on the campy joke as Captain Hook. He supplies plenty of tangy ham, using his hook as a vaudeville prop for cheap gags. But theater criticism is not healthy for the inner child, and the bottom line is that kids will enjoy this slam-bang "Peter Pan."

Trinity Repertory Company's staging of "Peter Pan" runs at the Lederer Theater Center in Providence, RI through June 9, 2002. For tickets call (401) 351- 4242.