AISLE SAY San Francisco

PETER PAN

by JM Barrie
Adapted by Tanya Ronder
Presented by threesixty┬░
Directed by Ben Harrison
Threesixty Theatre
Ferry Park, San Francisco /1-888-772-6849

Reviewed by Judy Richter

San Francisco's iconic Ferry Building has a new neighbor, a white conical tent called the Threesixty Theatre. Inside this temporary space, children and adults are transported into a blend of an old story, JM Barrie's "Peter Pan," and the latest in gee-whiz technology. Presented in the round, this production comes straight from London for its first U.S. appearance. Once the lights go down, the audience is transported into the Darling household's nursery in London some 100 or so years ago.

As the story progresses, however, the three Darling children, led by Peter Pan (Nate Fallows), fly out of their nursery and into the sky over London as a 360-degree bird's eye view of the city and surrounding countryside emerges, thanks to the wonders of computer-generated imagery. It's truly a wondrous experience.

Those who are familiar with the story won't find any new twists, but Tanya Ronder's adaptation and Ben Harrison's direction give it a darker tone than seen in the popular musical theater version. The fairy Tinker Bell (Itxaso Moreno), for example, is a grungy presence with her tattered pink tutu, punkish hairdo and edgy attitude. Fallows makes a believable though somewhat arrogant Peter despite being a little old for the role. The same goes for all of the other actors who play the Darling children -- Abby Ford as Wendy, David Poynor as Michael and Arthur Wilson as John -- and the Lost Boys.

Jonathan Hyde does double duty as the children's fussbudget father and the villainous Captain Hook, who could be more menacing. Perhaps the best cast actor is Shannon Warrick as a maternal Mrs. Darling, along with a short stint as the Neverbird. Antony Strachan also does well as Hook's bemused sidekick, Smee. Nana, the Darling family dog, is a life-size puppet manipulated by Mohsen Nouri, who also is part of the crocodile, one of the more clever bits of stagecraft in the production.

Although the play is advertised as suitable for all ages, it runs a bit long -- two hours and 20 minutes, including intermission -- for the younger set. As for the adults, it's primarily a technological wonder, for the drama itself seems a bit flat with no strong chemistry among the characters.

The sets, costumes and 3D production design are by William Dudley, who uses a series of traps and other devices to facilitate fast set changes. The sound is by Gregory Clarke with lighting by Mark Henderson. The music (most of it recorded) was composed and conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch, but there is some live music, most of it sung and played by the pirates. The choreography is by Fleur Darkin, while the puppetry direction is by Sue Buckmaster.

Although the technology transports the audience to another world, the tent structure brings in occasional traffic noise from the Embarcadero. On the other hand, the chiming of the Ferry Building clock fits in well.

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