Arden Theatre Company celebrates the 20th Anniversary Season of Arden Children’s Theatre with “Peter Pan.” This marks Artistic Director Whit MacLaughlin’s 20th production for the company’s children’s theatre, and Neverland still has plenty of daring adventure to offer in this adaptation.
“Peter Pan” is more than just about having the gift of flight. It’s more than just about never growing up. MacLaughlin discussed what makes his take on “Peter Pan” bravely endearing. “Everybody asks, are you going to fly?” he said. “Yes, we’re going to fly, but not in the ways people might expect.” MacLaughlin promised a daring spectacle, noting that “the flirtation with physical danger is part of this production.”
The performance incorporates a “high ropes course” which implements the use of an elaborate system of ropes, bridges, ziplines and more. It’s an aerodynamic approach that heightens the story. “You get to invent a world from scratch,” MacLaughlin said. Building Neverland is an adventure in itself, and adventure acting is a thing at the Arden. “It has a full body approach.”
MacLaughlin takes children’s theater as seriously as he does any of his contemporary work. Children’s theater isn’t just for kids, but it’s also for adults who still maintain their sense of youth and whimsy. This plays well into “Peter Pan” and its subtle but deeply rooted psychology. “Hook is the older counterpart to Pan,” MacLaughlin said. “They’re both the young person and the old person in the same body in a battle for supremacy. You’ve got to grow up, and there’s something elemental about the battle between youth and age.” With twin daughters of his own who are approaching their departure for college, he said of them, “you don’t want them to go, and yet they have to ‘escape’ their parents. It’s how we’re made.”
The performance ignores gender roles and expectations. The cast includes Jo Vito Ramirez as Peter and Barrymore Award-winning actress Catherine Slusar as Captain Hook. MacLaughlin emphasized impressing early that both boys and girls can do whatever they want. “I really wanted to do a ‘Peter Pan’ where the women get to play the important roles,” he added. “The kids are going to get to see actors, both male and female, that get to do the cool things in the performance.”
The show opens on Saturday, Dec 2 at 7 p.m. and runs through Sunday, Jan 28, with previews starting Nov 22.
For more information, visit ardentheatre.org.