The Darling Children
nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
August 10, 2008
If Peter Pan needed another reason to stay in Neverland, besides the constant adventure and excitement of pirates, Indians, mermaids, etc., he certainly now has it. Ivan Faute's new play The Darling Children is a look at another side of the children's classic which bypasses Neverland entirely and focuses on the stagnant and oppressive "real life" that sent Peter fleeing to the Lost Boys. The play centers around the family that Peter left behind when he was whisked off to Neverland. Without the free spirit of Pan, this family has become a torrid mixture of phobias and delusions, all vainly pinning their hopes on the Peter's return.
Director Stephen Murray has carefully constructed the piece, which uses minimal but creative staging to bring a convoluted script to life. Along with a talented cast, Murray has built a dark alternative to Neverland, where the imagination is squelched and nothing is possible. The work represents an imaginative use of small space, cramming a tiny stage with characters who have either given up their dreams or forgotten them all together. Dan Taube plays an imprisoned father who is as pitiful when incarcerated as he is tyrannical when freed. In contrast, Erin Robinson perfectly portrays a housewife in denial as to the horrid state of her family. Their daughters, played by Tiffani Moore, Lindsay Weisberg, and Carrie Hardin, each have found ways to cope with loss of Peter, the mythical figure, whose disappearance to Neverland hangs over the entire work. Hardin in particular is a pleasure to watch, bringing a weightless, warm presence to a very dark piece. Nick Lake rounds out a solid cast playing Michel, a suitor who is pulled into the machinations of this twisted family.
The Darling Children is a fascinating idea for a show, but I found it to be hampered by a confusing and needlessly esoteric script. So much of the dialogue and story are disjointed that it is a great effort for the cast to bring life and sympathy into their characters. Murray and his cast are to be commended for bringing some whimsical references and even some humor into a play which made me miss Neverland all the more from its absence.