Tuesday, May 3, 2016

reviews - PETE, OR THE RETURN OF PETER PAN - Childsplay

Alan Khoutakoun, Gavin Austin Brown, and Rebecca Duckworth
photo: Tim Tumble
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 22nd.

“...Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan by...Dwayne Hartford, ...It’s been many years since those Edwardian days when Wendy and her brothers left the comfort of their city home and flew with Peter to the second star on the right and straight on ‘til morning.  Peter hasn’t changed, but Wendy’s family has.  It’s now the 21st century.  Cell phones are in use and young people talk in terms of things being “Awesome; totally,” and occasionally, “Cool.”  Plus, the Darlings are no longer residents of England; they moved to America a generation or two ago....Unlike the recent glut of Peter Pan productions on both stage and screen, Hartford’s new book remains true to the spirit of J.M.Barrie’s 1904 stage original but with some modern-day, feminist sensibilities, which, with the changing of times, is exactly as it should be.  ..broad, colorfully comic performances of the two female pirates (Debra K. Stevens and Katie McFadzen, here doing double duty in the same way that traditionally, whoever played the role of father in the opening scene returned later as Captain Hook)...With a running time of nearly two hours including intermission, the play, as creatively fun as it is throughout, is not perfect.  It feels long, particularly in the first half where the pacing tends to suggest we’re reaching a conclusion to the story only to discover that at the fifty minute mark we’re merely halfway through.
Individual scenes are short as director David Saar moves events swiftly ahead, plus Hartford’s dialog is often very funny. ..but there’s also dryness among the many scenes that even the playful ninja fighting and the presence of the colorful pirates can’t overcome.  What’s missing is the occasional sound of music....But the real fun is to be had in the performances. ...the center of attention is Rebecca Duckworth’s boundless, bouncy energy as a modern day Wendy.  ..You get the impression that if Rebecca’s Wendy were ever to go back in time to meet her great, great grandmother, she’d probably challenge her to an arm-wrestle." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

""Peter Pan," J. M. Barrie's story of the boy who wouldn't grow up, seems to never go out of fashion. ...Childsplay presents the world premiere of Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan, a modern day sequel to Barrie's tale written by Dwayne Hartford, in a production full of heart, humor, and high flying adventure. With cell phones, words like "cool" and "awesome," karate, and, most importantly, female characters that are just as strong as the male roles in the show, Hartford's adventure brings a fresh, modern sensibility to Barrie's story. Wendy and Henry are the great, great grandchildren of the original Wendy from "Peter Pan."...When she opens up a box ...it sends up a beacon to the sky that brings Peter Pan from Neverland to Wendy's side. ...Wendy butts heads with the somewhat conceited Peter but still finds the adventure that she desires. But is Neverland the solution that Wendy seeks to escape from her controlling mother, or just a temporary stop on the journey to learn some valuable life lessons? Hartford creates identifiable characters and situations that will resonate with any parent or child. His continual use of humor keeps the show light. But there are also plenty of well-choreographed fight sequences (by David Barker) that incorporate the entire cast and bring athletic and comic-infused adventure to the show. While Hartford wisely keeps any hint of schmaltz out of the show, don't be surprised if you find yourself a little misty eyed like I was during the play's moving and heartfelt final scenes. The only downsides to the production are small, but a cast of only eight does make Neverland seem a little desolate and, while the end result is a fun and even moving adventure, there could be a little tightening of the script to speed up some of the action in the two hour running time....Director David Saar elicits wonderful performances from the cast and effectively uses Carey Wong's inventive, scaffolding-style, two-tiered scenic design to create plenty of inventive playing areas. ...Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan is a fun-filled adventure that wisely updates Barrie's famous story to modern times while also giving an equal balance to the female characters. The days of Wendy playing "mother" and tending to the lost boys' house while Peter and the boys are off on an adventure are long gone. While it could be tightened up a bit, with a gifted cast, clear direction, and fun creative elements, children of all ages will most likely jump at the chance to join Peter and Wendy on their fun filled adventure."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Mary Martin’s magical television Peter Pan...has always personified the central Neverland character who doesn’t want to grow up.... a new approach to the familiar story tailored for today’s youth ...is a challenge to longstanding perceptions. That’s exactly what local playwright Dwayne Hartford has done to create “Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan.” ...The changes are a challenge to accept for a traditionalist but the standing ovation and rapt attention by young theatergoers suggest that this is the ideal fate of J. M. Barrie’s 1904 play.  The new version...challenges traditionalists but it helps defray the story’s idealized look in the Martin version so today’s kids can better accept the tale....The energized cast is filled with dynamos who tackle the new approach with earnest conviction including Rebecca Duckworth’s athletic Wendy, Gavin Austin Brown’s nimble and constantly moving Peter, Debra K. Stevens and Katie McFadzen’s splashy villains, Jon Gentry’s matter-of-fact Smee plus Bobby Shook and Marshall Vosler’s kung-fu style Warrior’s.  David Saar’s directorial pizzazz keeps the show zipping along...“Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan” is a refreshing new take on the classic story that will appeal to contemporary kids and challenge their adult companions to abandon ingrained perceptions...." --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, wanted little girls to believe in fairies. But Valley playwright Dwayne Hartford wants them to believe in themselves....“Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan,” Hartford’s sequel is all about girl power....The play’s 21st-century heroine (Rebecca Duckworth) is a karate-chopping spitfire from a generation that believes girls can be anything they can dream....The battle of the sexes is the most intriguing aspect of Hartford’s play, but it’s not what makes “Pete” such great fun. David Saar, in his final production as leader of the company he founded 39 years ago, has directed an action-packed romp that, on opening weekend, drew gasps of surprise and delight from youngsters in the audience....Amid the cartoon combat and the Wendy-vs.-Pete rivalry, there isn’t much time to develop a family drama as well. ...Nonetheless, “Pete” does an admirable job of appealing to young theatergoers... while serving up a story that’s relevant to older kids and their parents as well. And if the male characters tend to get the short end of the storytelling stick, well, turnabout is fair play."  - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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