September 23, 2019 - Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre
After Neverland, a new reality
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
What happened after Wendy Darling returned from Neverland? The original Peter Pan story leaves its fans with a seemingly neatly wrapped conclusion to the Darling children’s adventure with Peter. Only if one doesn’t look beyond that homecoming. Kimberly Belflower does wonder, and pens a powerful immersion into a world that doesn’t ooze Disney cuteness and sentimentality in her thought-provoking play, Lost Girl.
Director David VanCleave learned about this play before it was completed and had such faith in what Belflower would do with the story that he reserved rights to perform the play before a script was available. His faith was well-deserved, as Lost Girl nicely fits into the Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre mission, “We are committed to introducing students to the arts, training them in all areas, and nurturing them to use their skills to create positive change.”
Lost Girl revolves around Wendy, instilled with beguiling realism by Kiana Collier. Collier delivers a layered role, avoiding the pitfall of a character who could become mono-dimensional. She is story’s core thread as Wendy evolves in her journey into womanhood, albeit still shackled by Pan’s influence. She concludes that her salvation lies in recovering that which she gave away so long ago: her kiss. Along this journey, she navigates a sea of well-meaning, often misinformed, influences (her mother, health care practitioners, the Lost Boys for whom she retained her maternal role) to seek her salvation. Her lack of self-honesty is revealing: allowing herself to think of Peter “only eight minutes a day” (it’s more of a 24/7 obsession), still living in the nursery as a grown woman, leaving the window open each night in hopes of Peter’s return. Collier delivers each scenario, each interaction with an honest, open portrayal, giving other ensemble members much from which to work.
Collier is wonderfully supported by an eclectic ensemble, some ably filling multiple roles. Working fluidly with her was her trio of muses, a beautifully diverse trio of women, Davida Williams, Sheena Tran, and Emilee Cruchelow. Jill S. Ziegler effectively captured the conflicted mother, battling her own issues. The Lost Boys provided a wide-ranging mix, also serving as Wendy’s constant reminder of Pan while resolutely moving forward with their lives. Kalen Truong as Slightly brings a tentative, yet resolved, energy to his role through his next-level relationship with Wendy. And, always present in his absence until the final scenes, is Gabe Schebel, whose Peter Pan interaction becomes the tipping point for Wendy.
Some elements of Belflower’s script, such as the quasi-Greek chorus narrative, seemed to scatter rather than focus the story. The spare design of the set, especially the suspended windows motif to help fill such a large performing area, worked well. Set elements rolled into new uses fluidly. Lighting was hit and miss, often leaving actors out of light during scenes when an illuminated focal point was needed.
This show runs a touch under 90 minutes, without intermission. Be sure to sit close to the stage, as there were many times when the actors, without body-mics, were hard to hear. The Franklin School Auditorium is a vast space to fill vocally, and a large stage on which to work. The intimacy of the Stoner Theater may have been a better choice for this show. This post-Neverland journey is worth experiencing, however, so get your tickets now.
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