Neverland, directed and written by Brian Semel ’16, was my first ever show at PW Upspace. And what a truly amazing show it was.
It’s a grown-up take on the childhood favorite “Peter Pan,” pondering the question of what happens in the future when characters, Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, and Hook become adults. Audience members watch the complex web of disintegrating relationships play out. The play is heartwrenching, but ultimately, wonderful.
The cast is absolutely electric, with a nearly tangible energy shared amongst them. Each actor and actress is perfectly suited for their role. Becca Millstein ’16 plays an intelligent and cautiously loving Wendy, while John Filmanowicz ’17 presents a high-energy portrayal of Peter Pan. Ben Hayslett’s ’18 is plays a bright Hook and Canning Robb ’17 successfully executes a seductive Tinkerbell.
Wendy and Peter start off in a relationship more comfortable than a worn-in sweater, with hilarious banter, ice cream, and of course, adoring love. There’s a delicious satisfaction in seeing a kind of “epilogue” for characters you grew up with. As the play progresses, however, we are reminded of the bittersweetness of growing up and change by their slowly crumbling relationship: one in which Wendy doubts whether Neverland is where she really belongs and Peter’s refusal to recognize he should let her go.
The rift between Peter and Wendy deepens by the introduction of Tinkerbell and Hook. I was particularly entranced by the interaction of Tinkerbell and Peter; the tension between them ebbed and flowed during their flirtatious verbal sparring, leaving my heart to stop completely at certain points. Their counterparts, Wendy and Hook, also share an intimate moment, but in a much more tender way. Although they start off dictating letters by weaving lines of their respective dialogue together, they begin to talk directly to each other, in an intense, almost conspiratorial fashion. Wendy is left to ruminate if her relationship in Neverland is truly what she wants.
The power of the play is especially evident in Peter’s last monologue. You can’t help but fall in love with quotes about how much Peter is enamored with Wendy: the way people tell him to shut up because his thoughts about Wendy are so loud, the way he knows the tiniest tidbits of knowledge about her, the way he never reveals she sneezes in her sleep so he can revel in the cuteness by himself. But the thing about falling in love so quickly and so deeply, is that it makes it that much more devastating when you watch his relationship collapse in on itself. Semel’s great writing is also very obvious in Wendy’s dialogue; personally, my favorite quote was “This is paradise, but the vacation is over,” which perfectly encapsulates Wendy’s frustration and the claustrophobic nature of her bond with Peter,
Do yourself a huge favor and watch Neverland at one of the two times on Saturday. You will laugh. You will feel like your heart is bursting at the seams. You will definitely be glad you went.
Images via Danielle Perelman ’17.
The director Brian Semel ’16 is a writer for BlogDailyHerald.