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PETER GETS PANNED

for The Brooklyn Paper
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"Straight on ’Til Morning," a new play now at 78th Street Theatre Lab, is supposedly inspired by J.M. Barrie’s "Peter Pan"; the title is from his directions to Neverland. But while Barrie’s enchanting tale has been delighting people of all ages for 100 years, "Straight on ’Til Morning" has an appeal that is mostly limited to a generation still carded at the Williamsburg bar the play depicts, and it will hopefully be forgotten when it closes on Sept. 25.

The play, written by Trish Harnetiaux (who has been living in Williamsburg for the past five years) and directed by Jude Domski (also a Williamsburg resident), takes Peter (Pan), played by rock star wannabe Michael Colby Jones, out of ephemeral Neverland and puts him in the changing world of this once working-class Brooklyn neighborhood where he seeks stardom as an indie-rock promoter.

The play might be a satire for the small group of individuals who live in Williamsburg and get all the inside jokes. But even so, the play is constantly dragged down by symbolism that was already over-used a century ago and melodrama masquerading as emotional conflict.

The set, designed by Sarah Pearline, cleverly reproduces the brick walls of the theater in a continuous line and contains a convenient window, door and balcony for quick entrances and exits, and many hidden storage boxes where additional stage props are stored. The set is - hands down - the best part of the play.

"Straight on ’Til Morning" runs for about an hour and 45 minutes. Take out the f-word, and it runs for about an hour. The rest of the dialogue contains gems such as "it boggles the mind," "the sky’s the limit" and "he lived in the now." In fact, the dialogue is so horrendous it would be hard to know whether the acting is really so stilted and hollow or the lines are just impossible to say. Then again the dramatic poses the performers kept adopting were ridiculous, too.

So what is "Straight on ’Til Morning" all about? Well, it’s hard to say. There are several themes running around here like a rat trying to find his way out of a maze.

First there’s the machinations of Hoard (Edward Furs), a Polish real estate developer who has lost three fingers of one hand, making him a digital dead ringer for the infamous Captain Hook. Hoard wants to build condos all over this Williamsburg neighborhood, destroying the beloved McCarren Pool in the process.

Then there’s Peter’s vacillation between his Wendy, the Idaho-bred girlfriend, Moira (Kate Turnbull), and the Tinkerbell character, his longtime friend, the sinister Isabelle (Corey Tazmania Stieb), a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, tattooed bass player who wants to lead him astray.

Finally, there’s Peter’s Uncle Price (David L. Carson) who comes to Williamsburg to bring Peter back home to face his tragic past. (His brother Michael died mysteriously in a lake, but one would like to think he really drowned in cliches.)

The play has a chorus-like figure, Friendly (Maurice Edwards), a bartender of Italian descent who sounds about as Italian as Snoop Dogg sounds Jewish.

With rings in both ears and his nose, Nico (Jason Griffin) is presumably a pirate, although it isn’t clear what he adds to the play.

"Straight on ’Til Morning" might have been vastly improved if Harnetiaux had found some way to include Nana the dog.

Fortunately, this ill-conceived, badly directed and poorly performed debacle was made palatable by the magnificent scene changes. With great panache, the actors pulled boards down from walls and benches out of cubbies. They threw chairs to each other and scampered about with great gusto. It was a pleasure to behold.

Anyone who aspires to being a stagehand should not miss this show. Everyone else can stay home in Brooklyn.

 

78th Street Theatre Lab’s production of "Straight on ’Til Morning" runs through Sept. 25, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, with an additional 8 pm performance on Sept. 20. The 78th Theatre Street Lab is located at 236 W. 78th St. at Broadway in Manhattan. Tickets are $15. For tickets, call (212) 868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com. For additional information, visit www.78thStreetTheatreLab.org.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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