As Director Alan Paul explains, Peter Pan and Wendy has always been a story of generational change. But while this classic tale previously was known to have centered around themes of the changing of time, age, and maturity, the world premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s new version now on stage at the Shakespeare Theatre Company addresses serious changes of generational thought and policy leadership.
The story of how the Darlings get to Neverland is what you remember; what has changed are the main take-aways of the timeless story. The actors are masterful and there’s still just as much childhood imagination, playful rebellion, and fairy magic. Add to that a lovable puppy “nurse,” a spellbinding set, and feats of acrobatic flight, and it’s a fantastic story and visual feast for all ages.
Peter Pan and Wendy is still a play about time itself – wanting to stop it mostly – due to a fear of mortality, of having to conform to societal norms, or learn to know one’s true self. But this version speaks directly to on-going generational challenges — mistakes of the past, like racism, sexism, and colonization — and attempts to address them. Specifically, Tiger Lily’s character counteracts the stereotypes of the original. Wendy, Tiger Lily, and even Tinkerbell are depicted as females of particular purpose, opinion, and strength. And even Peter Pan and Hook’s modern characters are a lot more introspective.
“Each generation is required to show up for justice,” says Gunderson, sharing why she wrote her version as she did. And her Peter Pan and Wendy is just the modern-age tale of growing up — and creating the world we want to live in — that this generation desires.
Peter Pan and Wendy is on stage through January 12th at the Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harmon Hall. Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.