Relishing his role as the nefarious, dandified pirate in Book-It Repertory Theatre's "Peter Pan," veteran Seattle character actor Eric Ray Anderson seems very much to the Hook born.
Some were born to play Captain Hook, and some have Captain Hook thrust upon ’em.
Relishing his role as the nefarious, dandified pirate in Book-It Repertory Theatre’s “Peter Pan,” veteran Seattle character actor Eric Ray Anderson seems very much to the Hook born.
Anderson is the true star of playwright-director Joy Marzec’s hit-and-miss, Book-It version of the perennial J.M. Barrie favorite, “Peter Pan.”
Anderson wears the standard duds of those playing the captain of the Jolly Roger. The towering wig of sooty Louis XIV curls. The velvet britches and ruffled shirt. That gleaming hook where the pirate’s arm once was — before a crocodile chomped it off.
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But Anderson’s Hook isn’t just a campy meanie with sartorial flash. He’s a deep-thinking worry wart à la Hamlet, reeling between bloodthirsty villainy, a Victorian schoolboy’s obsession with the British niceties of “good form” and “bad form,” and a nagging Mommy complex.
Hook’s “vitals were tortured” by such Freudian conflicts, wrote Barrie. And Anderson’s torment is hilarious, terrifying and weird — often, all three at once.
Conflicted also (to varying degree) are some of the story’s other archetypal figures — the swaggering eternal boy, Peter Pan (James Grixoni-Lewis); the maternal young girl Wendy Darling (Greta Bloor); the jealous fairy Tinkerbell (Rhonda J. Soikowski).
Such neuroses are more upfront in Barrie’s original 1904 play “Peter Pan” and his subsequent 1911 novel “Peter and Wendy” than in most of the many later spinoffs of the tale (by Barrie and others).
Quoting heavily from Barrie’s 1911 prose version of Peter and Wendy’s adventures, Marzec retains much of the novel’s elegant wit, darker textures and ambivalent tone.
But Seattle stages have hosted many a “Peter Pan,” dramatic and musical. And this one needs more of the magical fairy dust that fans of Barrie’s myth expect.
There is some clunky staging afoot, and some of the problem is technical: When Peter whisks Bloor’s sweetly eager Wendy and her brothers off to faraway Neverland, they don’t soar on stage wires. They sort of flap around unconvincingly in a starrily-lit sky.
And there’s not much to the Jolly Roger pirate ship in Judith Cullen’s bare-bones set design either.
Without such visual embellishments, or better musical ones (Mitch Marzec’s score is erratically eclectic), the burden of magic-making falls on the actors.
Some shoulder it well, including Bloor; the amiable cluster of kids playing Peter’s Lost Boys; Andrew DeRycke as a huffy Mr. Darling; and Cornelia Moore as a touchingly worried, wistful Mrs. Darling. But Grixoni-Lewis needs to find more notes for Peter than cocky stridency. And Soikowski’s athletic Tinkerbell is screechier and earthier than a twinkling sprite oughta be.
When Anderson’s Hook holds forth, however, he’s a master of compelling malevolence. He gives Barrie’s strange and marvelous myth “good form,” indeed.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org