KPBS AIRDATE: December 6, 1995
Sledgehammer’s Peter Pan never really soars. That applies to both the character and the production. There are some wonderfully inventive moments, some terrifically creative ways of giving the illusion of flight, but there are also scenes in the almost three-hour evening that never get off the ground.
This is a pattern with director Scott Feldsher. He is wildly imaginative, sometimes too wildly. He can also be enormously self-indulgent. And frightfully adolescent. I suppose if there’s anyplace to totally gratify and satisfy one’s adolescent fantasies, “Peter Pan” is the play. But frankly, no matter what the vehicle, the same complaints apply.
It seems to me that Feldsher just doesn’t trust that he can reach an audience just as much through some semblance of believable emotion as by battering them with screaming and stamping, and all manner of puerile mayhem, including the inevitable pileup of bodies bumping and careening off the walls and each other. His Lost Boys are Six Stooges in Search of a Focus.
Mr. Darling is an immature, strident monstrosity. Tinker Bell is a jealous bitch. No wonder there wasn’t much believe-in-fairies clapping to revive her. Peter Pan is a white-haired, midriff-bared Sting who lives up to that moniker. He can be downright nasty, frequently petulant and generally uncaring about anyone else. Just like a boy…. He’s wallowing in a female abandonment crisis from which he cannot or will not extricate himself.
Okay, that said, let me tell you that there were many scenes and stage pictures that I really, really liked in this warped little “Pan.” First of all, the creative team is creme de la creme. Michelle Riel has designed another winner of a set, with the grown-up Wendy and her daughter Jane framed in a deep-perspective window, looking down on the action of the childhood adventure story Wendy is telling to Jane. York Kennedy’s sound, Jeff Ladman’s lighting, Cheryl Lindley’s costumes and Pea Hicks’ original music wrap the piece in an aptly eerie, irreverent, sexy, funny, funky atmosphere.
Sarah Golden has endearing and EarthMother moments as Wendy. And Michael Douglas Hummel has rock-star moves and charisma as Peter. They’re both at their best when they’re not shrieking. Gregory Clemens has a marvelous voice, costume and presence as the Crocodile, the narrator of the piece who uses J.M. Barrie’s lush stage directions to set each scene. Brian Salmon was born to be Captain Hook. He is so perfect you find yourself unabashedly panting for more of the villain. He is snide and arrogant, cultured and downright delicious.
I loved the use of shadows and the imaginative depiction of flying and fairies; hated the slap-shtick, stuttering and salacious humor; enjoyed the becalmed second act — a relief from the hyperactive, oversexed first act; and savored the opening and closing Tom Waits song, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” All told, I like Sledge’s focused edginess a lot more than its rampageous sophomoric stunts. This “Peter Pan” isn’t for kids or traditionalists, but it’s… something to see.
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1995 Patté Productions Inc.