Theater review by Helen Shaw. Pearl Theatre Company (see Off Broadway). By J.M. Barrie. Dir. J.R. Sullivan. With ensemble cast. 1hr 35mins. One intermission.
You can’t mention author J.M. Barrie without invoking his most famous creation, Peter Pan. The Pearl happily does so by titling its charming Barrie one-acts This Side of Neverland—though there’s nary a lost boy in sight. In fact, the paragon of eternal childhood doesn’t get a green-stockinged toe in the door. Instead of valorizing the perpetually adolescent male, Barrie’s still-fresh 1914 twosome, The Twelve Pound Look and Rosalind, makes heroes of self-willed, single, middle-aged women. Hoo-goddamned-ray: That’s better than pirates any day.
Since both comedies rely on surprise, I mustn’t say why in Rosalind middle-aged Mrs. Page (Rachel Botchan) so flusters her visitor, a young man in love with her daughter, nor why in The Twelve Pound Look pompous Harry Sims (Bradford Cover) is so flabbergasted at his decidedly pert typist (Botchan again). Suffice it to say, the brisk, intelligent Botchan has found her match, both in material and in the hilarious Cover, who keeps inflating just as she seems at her sharpest. Director J. R. Sullivan revels in the project’s coziness—Sean McNall twinkles while reciting Barrie’s novelistic stage directions, Carol Schultz plays piano between pieces. But while this is a classic Pearl, it also retains its saltwater sting. Barrie’s eye was keen, noticing how women can vanish from stage or in marriages. He renders certain invisible adults visible again, which is, ultimately, a better trick than making children fly.—Helen Shaw