Review: ‘The Adventures of Peter Pan’ at Synetic Theater

I have to admit something: this was my first Synetic Theater production. I assure you, however, it will not be my last. I had read about Synetic’s wordless Shakespeare shows and heard rapturous reviews of their dance-infused productions, but I was insufficiently prepared for the magic I enjoyed onstage with The Adventures of Peter Pan directed by Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili.

Ryan Sellers and Alex Mills in Peter Pan. Photograph courtesy of Synetic Theater.

This Peter Pan isn’t wordless – there is plenty of dialogue to move the story along, with a script adapted by Ed Monk and co-adaptors Marley Giggey and Tori Bertocci. There are some new aspects to the story that might not be canonical Peter Pan, but nothing that would make J.M. Barrie roll over in his grave. For the purposes of this production, Tinkerbell is Peter’s recently deceased sister who has become a fairy and uses her magic to bring Peter and his Shadow to life and transport the trio to Neverland. At this point, we’re back to the well-known Peter Pan tale as Peter and his Shadow meet the Darling children in their nursery and take them on their flight to Neverland where they encounter the Lost Kids and Hook’s crew, see the mermaids, bravely swashbuckle, and all the good stuff we know and love.

Peter, here played by Alex Mills, is youthful, brave, and more sympathetic than the selfish, petulant Peter of the book. (And thank goodness, too. The written Peter comes off as a bit of a sociopath, so I was happy to have this winning portrayal to root for.) Mills’s movement is full of life, fun, and the vigor needed to see why the Lost Kids and Darlings take to him as a leader right off the bat.

The movement is the star here, with gorgeous choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili. The two standout dancers are also the two characters who don’t happen to have any dialogue: Tinkerbell and Peter’s shadow. Ana Tsikurishvili’s Tinkerbell moves with hummingbird-like delicacy, suggesting speed and flight without the aid of cables or set tricks. Peter’s shadow (Zana Gankhuyag) has a key role in this adaptation, serving as Peter’s constant companion and friend. His precise mirroring and expressive movements bring the shadow to life as its own character. The original music, composed by Konstantine Lortkipanidze, is at times sinister, at times joyful, but always inventive. It often provides the dark, atmospheric undercurrent of danger needed to make Neverland more foreboding than cute. And speaking of danger, sparks literally fly as Peter and the Lost Kids take on Hook’s sinister yet bumbling crew during the exciting fights choreographed by yet another member of the Tsikurishvili clan: Vato.

The Captain Hook of this adaptation, played with louche bravado by Ryan Sellers, is an amusing amalgam of our current president and Jack Sparrow. His scenes with Smee (Nathan Weinberger) are particularly funny, with shades of Hook’s Trump-style bluster leaving his (former) right-hand-man Smee Spicer to make sense of his remarks to his crew.

It’s not often that a reviewer doesn’t want to describe a costume in too much detail to preserve the surprise, but suffice to say that Tinkerbell’s costume is stunning and a show in and of itself. Kendra Rai has created a suite of fascinating costumes that includes sleek mermaids, a pirate crew out of an S&M bordello, and joyously feral Lost Kids. Together with the versatile, moving set designed by Daniel Pinha, the show looks like a slightly dark dream. The Marooner’s Rock scene with the mermaid dance and the lyrical suggestion of water is a perfect marriage of set, choreography, and costume.

The imagery and plot might be a bit intense at times for the littlest kids, but the seven-and-over crowd will be entranced and enthralled. Poetic and sophisticated, yet accessible and amusing, this production is a stellar start to Synetic’s season.

Running Time: 110 minutes, with no intermission.

The Adventures of Peter Pan plays through November 19, 2017, at Synetic Theater – 1800 S. Bell St. in Arlington, Virginia. For tickets, call the box office at (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.


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