Peter Pan at the Cloverdale Playhouse

By on 21 July, 2017 in Amanda Burbank, Fun with 0 Comments

By Melissa Tubbs

Last night, Wendy put the Lost Boys to sleep at my feet by telling them a bedtime story about Mr. and Mrs. Darling and their three children and a boy named Peter Pan. This was a well chosen story, as apparently Peter’s favorite stories are ones about himself.

The Playhouse Troupe at the Cloverdale Playhouse told me the very same bedtime story Wendy was telling the boys, only instead of a gentle motherly rendition, perhaps told in an almost whisper from a rocking chair, they acted out every raucous scene using the sparse furnishings of the Darling nursery as their props. Bedsheets became mermaids’ tails and rippling, rising water; beds became ships and walls for houses. They built pillow forts. They “flew” from their beds.

For this Playhouse production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan the stage is very large, reaching out into the audience seated on three sides (which is how I found myself with Lost Boys at my feet), but the set is relatively simple — a nautical themed nursery with pale, almost neutral, colors and minimal furnishings. The simplicity of the set keeps the focus on the actors and allows them to create the world of Neverland for the audience with their energetic performances. The actors and the audience join together in mutual agreement to believe.

Jason Morgan, head of education at the playhouse, directs the cast of 21 adults and children. This is the first time the Playhouse’s Youth Acting Company has taken the stage as part of the main season. They do not disappoint. The Darling children and the Lost Boys carry much of the weight of world-building, as it is their imaginations that transform the nursery into a place of adventure. The pirates, who are pleasing as comic characters, seem to almost be big Lost Boys. They are lovable villains.

Kendrick Golson as Peter Pan is a delight. He cartwheels and crows. He captures Wendy’s heart and the hearts of the audience. Peter declares: “I’m youth, I’m joy, I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg,” and Golson embodies the line. His sword fight with nemesis Captain Hook (played by Matthew Klinger) is well choreographed and fun to watch, bringing to mind the best play fights from one’s childhood. Klinger as the cowardly Hook plays his smirks and his melodramatic sighs right. His monologue to the audience, which is repeatedly interrupted, reinforces his status as an unpopular character. It is well done and a high point in the show.

There is a funny moment near the end when Peter asks Mrs. Darling whether if she adopted him she send him to school and then to the office. Mr. and Mrs. Darling (played by John McWilliams and Emily Witcher) are the most grown up roles in a play that is about never growing up, which might seem to set them up as antagonists. Even though for the most part the play was escapades and the bedtime stories told in between them, the theme of family was woven throughout. McWilliams and Witcher along with their children played by Piper Doyle, Dan Jordan, and Jake Jordan truly touched my heart. When they were reunited at the end I found myself crying with the Darlings over their lost children come home and how the experience had changed them.

What impressed me about the play was not an intricate plot or witty dialogue or impressive set, but it was that the play had heart. It was full of joy and energy and nostalgia. It was fully realized children’s imaginative, creative play just like I played when I was a child, just like I played with my children. It made me laugh and brought me to tears. I was entertained. I was impressed with the actors. Go see the play. You’ll be glad you did.

The show is running from July 20 through 30 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and on Sundays at 2 p.m. Doors open an hour prior to showtime. This show is for audiences age four and up and student and group ticket rates are available. To order tickets call (334) 262-1530 or use the order form online.

Amanda Burbank is an observer, savorer, poet, artist, mother, wife, and lover of beauty and life. Unexpected events found her family living nestled in the deep south woods within a family home built by her great grandfather. From there, she works as a freelance writer and photographer. Her heart is to live a life of acceptance and perhaps help others to see beauty in the unlikely through well crafted words and photographs of lovely ordinary everyday moments.

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