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Logan Fringe Arts Space – Upstairs

Remaining Performances (tickets available here):

Friday, July 17 at 10 p.m. Saturday, July 18 at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 19 at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at 8:45 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at 2:25 p.m.

They say: What happens when you are forced to grow up? When you are being chased by pirates and time is against you? What happens when the people sworn to protect you become your enemies? Would you fight against them?

Brett’s Take: It doesn’t, in some way, matter that this was based on Peter Pan. Peter Pan is the inspiration that happened to work for the creative ensemble, and we would be just as grateful for the results if it were any other story at its core.

There’s Pan (Justin Bell), dressed in colorful street clothes, smiling charismatically. He’s lifting naïve Wendy (Anna Lynch) into the air, on the run from Hook (Ryan Tumulty) and Smee (Jon Jon Johnson), in the form of red-suited police officers. Tink (Sharisse Taylor) arrives, her hair in an assertive afro-mohawk, questioning the introduction of outsider Wendy to the homeless crew of Lost Boys (Pasquale Guiducci, Emily Berry, Taylor Robinson — not only “boys”) on the “urban street[s] of Neverland.” Pixie dust is sprinkled onto faces, and the intoxicated recipients twirl about, soar across the raised stage, cavort, and crawl over each other.

Unapologetically passionate, you could call this. Kinetically yearning. The stunning original music by Jessica Thorne pounds, the company sparkles under Tori Bertocci‘s fluid direction with the choreographic aid of Dallas Tolentino and Pasquale Guiducci, and two main conflicts are brought to life.

First, there’s Pan’s insistence on bringing Wendy into his crew of street survivors. Tellingly, the story (which was devised by the ensemble) conceives Wendy as an orphan child raised in foster homes — hardly most people’s idea of a privileged upbringing, but to the Lost Boys who survive on Starburst and single soda cans, she may as well be a princess. Lynch carves out a portrait of a young woman with a great deal of empathy who still has a lot to learn — perhaps like most of us. Taylor dazzles as troubled Tink, her sense of hope soured nearly to the point of curdling, rightfully challenging optimistic Pan on Wendy’s place within their tight circle of friendship.

Secondly, there’s Hook and Smee’s debate on what to do about these Lost Boys and their pixie dust, a substance that, being not illegal in small quantities, is a source of consternation for Hook and his morals. Smee is portrayed as a former Lost Boy who joined the police to “do good,” and pushes Hook to act on his better impulses. Whether or not their discussions reveal noble intentions, or are mere justifications for evil acts, is up to the audience to decide.

This moral complexity — there are no characters played as either without flaws or undeserving of some sympathy — is startling when combined with such physical, demanding dance-theater; it recalls the best of Synetic Theater‘s work, yet infused with a more fiercely political and personal energy.

As the program details, events such as the Baltimore Riots had a deep impact on the ensemble as they built this piece over recent months, and it’s impressive how they translated their feelings so artfully. If Pan and Wendy end up shunted aside a bit by play’s end in favor of more focus on Hook and Tink, it only points to the organic development of the adaptation and the company’s refusal to be bound by anything except what moves them. Even a slightly heavy-handed ending cannot spoil the effect.

Founded by Bertocci and Guiducci, atypical-capitalization-loving relEASE physical theatre are only on their second full production with straight on til moUrning, but their outlook and approach are fully and boldly formed. Particularly if they continue taking this same kind of spirited, probing approach to the troubles of our times, we can expect (more) great things from them.

(A final side note: the Upstairs space at Fringe is in-the-round and the lights can be rather headache-inducing if you sit directly across from any of the four units on poles — choose your seat wisely.)

See it if: You like your fairy tales to mean something to us today, and for your modern-day debates to have the power of fairy tale.

Skip it if: You’re an apolitical Peter Pan purist.

Watch a trailer for the show below:

Photo courtesy of relEASE

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