Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Peter Pan and Wendy
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of She the People: The Resistance Continues!, Dear Jack, Dear Louise and The Woman in Black

Sinclair Daniel and Justin Mark
Photo by Teresa Castracane
In the musical Matilda, the young title character laments that some fictional characters suffer because "they didn't change their story." What playwright Lauren Gunderson has done in Peter Pan and Wendy, receiving its world premiere in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, is to reboot J.M. Barrie's classic story of "the boy who wouldn't grow up" for a moment where young people—and girls, and members of marginalized populations—are stepping up to change their stories. (See Arena Stage's production of Newsies for another version of this theme.)

Director Alan Paul and his bountifully talented cast have created a lavish production for both the eyes and ears, from Jason Sherwood's enveloping sets and Isabella Byrd's often otherworldly lighting design to Loren Shaw's costumes, Jared Mezzocchi's projections, James Ortiz's puppet design, Jenny Giering's score, and John Gromada's sound design.

Gunderson sets the play in London in 1903, shortly after Marie Curie received the first of her two Nobel Prizes. Wendy Darling (Sinclair Daniel) has a restless mind and a fierce intelligence; while her well-meaning mother (Jenni Barber) wants to send her to finishing school to learn proper domestic arts, Wendy would rather study astronomy. When Peter Pan (Justin Mark) appears at the window, trying to reclaim his lost shadow (an ingenious bit of, yes, shadow puppetry), Wendy eagerly wants to learn more about him and his friend Tinkerbell, a ball of light that Wendy mistakes for an errant star.

Soon, Wendy and her younger brothers John (Christopher Flaim) and Michael (Chauncey Chestnut) are joining Peter in the skies between London and Neverland. Paul Rubin has choreographed the flying sequences to fit seamlessly in the narrative, just another wonder in a stage full of them.

Gunderson also has reimagined Tiger Lily (Isabella Star LaBlanc) as the last remaining indigenous resident of Neverland rather than a cartoonish "savage." Like Wendy, she knows her own mind; she has no patience with the invaders who appropriated the land of her people, whether that means Peter or the foppish, image-obsessed Captain Hook (the deliciously hammy Derek Smith). Also, like Wendy, she understands that Peter's refusal to grow up has its negative aspects.

Other standouts in the large, accomplished cast include Tom Story, hilariously obsequious as Hook's sidekick Smee, and Barber, who also embodies Tinkerbell in Neverland with a serious attitude and a costume that suggests an Edwardian chorus girl. And then there's the casting of Nana, the dog serving as nanny to the Darling children, who earns "Aw"s with every entrance.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Peter Pan and Wendy
December 3rd, 2019 – January 12th, 2020
A play by J.M. Barrie, adapted by Lauren Gunderson
Real World:
Wendy Darling: Sinclair Daniel
Mrs. Darling: Jenni Barber
John Darling: Christopher Flaim
Michael Darling: Chauncey Chestnut
Mr. Darling: Derek Smith
Nana: Bailey
Peter Pan: Justin Mark
Tinkerbell: Jenni Barber
Tiger Lily: Isabella Star LaBlanc
Tootles: Francisco Gonzalez
Curly: Ronen Lewis
Slightly: Joriah Kwame
Twin: Darren Alford
Twin: Tendo Nsubuga
Captain Hook: Derek Smith
Smee: Tom Story
Jukes: Michael Glenn
Noodler: Calvin McCullough
Starkey: Gregory Wooddell
Ensemble: Oliver Archibald, Megan Huynh, Joseph Respicio
Directed by Alan Paul
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or