One of the founding principles of the Fringe Festival was to give alternative, independent, and emerging talents a platform. NIGHTMARES IN NEVERLAND is just such an opportunity for four young artists to advance their theater-making skills and visibility by presenting a fully-staged and artistically-designed collaborative production. It consists of two original one-hour plays inspired by the life and popular children’s book of Scottish author J.M. Barrie (1860-1937), Peter Pan, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up (1904).
BOYFIGHT, written by Haygen Brice Walker and directed by Brey Ann Barrett, is a dark, disturbing fantasy on disenchantment with adulthood, adult behavior, and sexuality, and the lives of modern-day children tragically cut short (JonBenet Ramsay and Anne Frank), who at last find the childhood happiness they missed in Neverland. The non-linear surrealistic piece interweaves original dialogue with characters and voice-overs of passages from Barrie’s book, and features a standout performance by Jenna Kuerzi as a tough-talking Anne and the overbearing mother of JonBenet. Pendant filament bulbs (lighting by Amanda Jensen) reinforce the theme of finding points of light in darkness. NEVERMAN, by Brian Clores and directed by Brianne Shaw, is a thoroughly researched and suggestive examination of the disquieting events and pyscho-sexual idiosyncrasies that motivated Barrie. Sarah Kirk, as J.M.’s domineering mother and unsatisfied wife Mary, masters their distinctive Scottish and English accents and demeanors. The two pieces might have been more effective in reverse order (with Barrie’s biography preceding the deconstruction of his work), and with some editing to pick up the pace of the latter, but both offered imaginative insights into their subject. [Studio X, 1340 S. 13th St.] September 11-22, 2014; fringearts.com/nightmares-in-neverland.