A tinge of magic permeates the sparse set, designed by Gavin Mosier, where Lost Girl, written by Kimberly Belflower (acclaimed author of John Proctor Is the Villain) and directed by the multi-talented, award-winning playwright and director Aaron Posner, hints at enchantments to come. The show opens in the quaint Studio Theatre at American University to tell the tale of a lonely girl familiar to readers of the Peter Pan story, Wendy Darling. But in Belflower’s script, Wendy is all grown up and searching for Peter after her Peter Pan adventure. In Posner’s accomplished hands, Lost Girl gives wind to the sails of a play about the aftermath of what Wendy Darling endures after meeting Peter Pan in Neverland.
The play begins with the entire cast walking out and lying down in support of Wendy’s desire to find Peter again so that she can move on with her life. The production featured two rotating casts and at the performance I saw, Wendy was played by Abigail Altemose with humanity, sympathy, and tenderness. Wendy’s friends throughout the play are her loyal and true confidantes, the Lost Boys, who are played with wit, candor, and care by Lila-Rose Roberts (Toodles), Emma Altritchter (Slightly), Skylar Bluestein (Nibs), and Makayla Zoe Fetterman (Curly) as they try to guide her through her advancement in life.
Wendy is lost, distraught, and still waiting for Peter, who had promised to come back to get her. We learn that while she was on her adventure in Neverland for a mere nine days, to her it felt like years. Her disappearance is being investigated by a Detective (Dylan Nicholson), who thinks she’s making up stories. Her Mother, poignantly played by India Mather Gonzales, is so deeply distressed and in search of help for her daughter’s delusions that Wendy is being sent to a Doctor (Gizem Toksoz) and a therapist (Olivia Bloch) to help her work through her fantasy. But prescribing happiness to a broken heart doesn’t work, and Wendy prefers her sadness. Posner succeeds in portraying her sadness as a comfortable and safe place to hide.
How much time has passed since she returned from her Foreverland is in question. But it’s certainly implied that Wendy has grown up and should be out of the house — or at least not living in the nursery anymore, where she still leaves her window open hoping that Peter will return. Even the Lost Boys she brought back with her from Neverland are worried now. They’ve grown up, she hasn’t, and they are implementing some tough love when they threaten to leave her.
An array of other characters give us a glimpse into what Peter has been doing since Wendy last saw him. Cora (Melody Chen), Callie (Katherine Zimmerman), and Krista (Sedona Salb) all claim to have seen Peter in our world. They let Wendy know that he’s grown up, that she wasn’t his one-and-only. A journalist named Nina (Rachel Lipetz) seeks her out for an interview and ultimately joins the cast of other “girlfriends.”
Bellflower’s Lost Girl poses the question of whether there is love after one’s first idealized endearment. It’s a clever examination of heartbreak and recovering from the first lost love that so many can relate to. Because sometimes it’s easier to hide than face life — the scary and the magical. Wendy, like many of us, wants to learn how to fly again. The real question Lost Girl asks is: are we capable of trying?
Lost Girl examines the universal question of how to persevere with a broken heart. Posner’s production was executed with a delicate beauty that could have only been achieved with an invested heart.
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
Lost Girl played from March 1 to 4, 2023, at Studio Theatre, Katzen Arts Center, American University directly across from 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC.
Scenic Designer by Gavin Mosie; Costume Design by Ashlynne Ludwig; Lighting Design by Jesse Belsky; Sound Design by Andrew Hall.