A few years ago, Eric Tucker was browsing at The Drama Book Shop when he came upon a copy of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. “I don’t know why but I just started thumbing through it,” says Tucker, artistic director of the theatre company Bedlam. And almost immediately, he saw the potential for a new kind of adaptation.
Though the name is the same as Barrie’s 1904 play, Bedlam’s Peter Pan, now playing at The Duke on 42nd Street, is not necessarily the classic tale with which audiences are familiar. Tucker, who directs, has not changed any of Barrie’s actual text; however, he has reshuffled scenes with the goal of unveiling a much darker, more mature side of Peter Pan.
“We keep discovering the layers of adult themes. There’s a lot of depth there,” says Tucker. “There are obsessions, the relationships are complex, and not everybody is happy or fulfilled. It’s dysfunctional.”
“It’s made the play much more human than I ever expected it to be,” says Kelley Curran, who plays Wendy. “When I think of Peter Pan, I think of fantasy and complete whimsy—flying and fairies. This has grounded it in a way that will never leave me.”
Completing the cast are Brad Heberlee, Edmund Lewis, Susannah Millonzi, and Zuzanna Szadkowski (Gossip Girl). In signature Bedlam style, the cast is small and lean, and have helped devise the show from its earliest stages. It’s an organic way of working for Tucker, who is collaborative by nature, and whose company has built a following on the success of its ensemble-driven pieces (its breakthrough hit in 2012, Saint Joan, featured four actors playing over 25 characters).
Bedlam has also garnered a reputation for its minimalist, highly inventive approach to theatre. The company’s acclaimed Sense and Sensibility was praised for its innovative stagecraft and unabashed theatricality.
“I think that people like the kind of storytelling that we do. We trust the audience to bring in a certain amount of imagination to [each show],” says Tucker.
“I think that the most exciting theatre is where you do have to take those leaps,” says Curran, who is working with Bedlam for the third time. “It’s not all clearly laid out for you. It forces you to get on board.”
And with an iconic title like Peter Pan, Tucker’s hope is that more audiences will want to get on board with Bedlam.