Dark shadows, ominous whisperings and blood dripping
from the walls are not the typical images that Peter Pan
resurrects in one’s mind. But with a little creativity
and a lot of childlike imagination, No Rules Theatre
Company managed to turn the classic childhood fantasy into a
The use of the word “nightmare” by no means implies a horrifi c or
terrible performance; instead, it applauds the company’s ability to be
able to pull off such an odd twist on a story.
For more than a century, the eternal child of JM Barrie’s original
Peter and Wendy has roamed the alleys of our imaginations, bringing
to life the typical childhood fantasies of mermaids, pirates and fairies.
But in the adaptation Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers,
Michael Huberes’ retelling of Pan’s story does not stop at the brightly
lit surface of a happy fantasy. Instead, it delves into Barrie’s dark
underlying questions and analysis. Why is it that Pan and the lost
boys never grow up? What is Pan’s motivation for running away?
Why does he hate adulthood? Is Neverland our imagination, a state of
mind, a longing… or some form of afterlife?
The fi rst scene of the play immediately sets the tone for a brooding
The lights go dark and ghostlike whisperings command,
“Come away” and “Go away.” Only the characters’ mysterious
silhouettes are visible at fi rst.
Carrie Wood’s lighting plays a large role in creating the mood and
atmosphere of the play, as it is the driving force behind both the playful
and menacing shadows that dance on stage. At a moment’s notice,
a change in the lighting can turn the set from a happy, innocent
memory to a distressing realization.
The most noteworthy aspect is the set itself, designed by Scenic
Designer Daniel Pinha. A worn, hardwood fl oor lies beneath the typical
toys and furniture of a 20th century child’s bedroom.
The entire play takes place on the bedroom set and the characters
— children at play — use the bedroom furniture to create the scenes
in Neverland. Even during intermission, the actors return to the stage
in character and play pretend to rearrange the furniture as necessary.
A bed frame becomes a ship. A bed, dresser and blanket become a
But just as the storyline has mysteries revealed, so does the set.
Small sections of the stage fl oor are removed at times to expose a
small pond, the foliage of wilderness or even a small grave.
wall, covered in peeling wallpaper, has hidden doors and windows
that allow characters to escape into a starry night or climb up, lie
down and pretend to fl y. The biggest surprise is when a light hits the
wall and reveals once-hidden blood stains.
The actors do a wonderful job in creating a playful, childlike
atmosphere. The key is having big ideas with a simple execution. For
example, in order to fl y the actors simply raise their arms and stand
upon their toes to give the illusion of a child pretending to fl y around
Tricks, wires and gizmos are not needed.
Megan Graves gives an outstanding performance as Wendy. Graves
is able to fuse both the playfulness of a little girl with the intensity of
a worried, pretend mother. Her voice and distinct British annunciation
commands attention, and even after the play, my memory carried
away some of her lines and replayed them throughout the evening.
Her energetic bounce and dainty gestures, such as sitting on the
edge of the bed with her toes pointed and dangling, had me double
checking the playbill for her age.
Yes, she is an adult with a bachelor’s
in fi ne arts.
John Evans Reese, on the other hand, brings a savage Peter Pan to
the stage. His performance, fi lled with graceless stomping, reminds
the audience that boys typically play rough and their imaginations
create much more menacing characters and circumstances, such as
fi ghting a pirate to the death.
Adam Downs, who plays Tootles and Smee, provides the necessary
comic relief that balances the play’s intertwining of a playful fantasy with
a sinister approach. His joyful expressions and high-pitched exclamations
remind the audience of the enthusiasm and hilarity of children.
Overall, the performance is original, shocking and even a little disturbing,
but can certainly be appreciated for its unique and thoughtprovoking
form. Without a doubt, it’s an entirely new experience for
the audience. wanna go?
No Rules Theatre Company performs Peter Pan: The Boy Who
Hated Mothers at Hanesbrands Theatre, 209 N. Spruce St., Winston-
Salem, Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 with an extra 12 p.m.
performance on Thursday. Play suggested for ages 10 and up.
Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information call 336.722.8348
or visit www.norulestheatre.org/shows/peter-pan.