After two years of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at Lafayette's Town Hall Theatre, Kevin T. Morales wanted something a little different for his first season as artistic director. Instead of yuletide sing-alongs, he decided to look to the British panto tradition of reviving classic fairy tales for the holidays, only without the bit about blokes in dresses. This year Morales directs his own adaptation of J.M. Barrie's 1904 play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, calling it Peter and Wendy (not to be confused with the Mabou Mines version by that name that Berkeley Rep presented in 1999) -- which also happens to be the original title of Barrie's 1911 novel, now usually published as Peter Pan.
Morales says he isn't aiming for any sort of radical reinterpretation; he simply found that existing versions seemed to go straight on till morning. Also, a lot of the stuff with the Injuns is a bit egregious by modern American standards. "We're trying to make the show a little bit more accessible to audiences of all ages by not making it a three-hour-long classical piece," he says. "The adaptation is not because I think I'm better than J.M. Barrie or anything like that, but so much of what he wrote in 1904 just will not fly in 2005."
The main changes Morales has made are resetting the story in WWII London and giving Wendy more depth than just the desire to play house. "We tried to make Wendy a child who's grown up too fast in a time when her country's at war and she's constantly reminded of grim realities," he says. "She's forsaken her childhood to some degree, and so she becomes a character in contrast to Peter Pan. There's no grim realities to Peter Pan, and somehow he's able to get her to realize that to use her imagination and indulge in childhood is not a lack of respect for what's going on, and in fact is actually quite necessary." Peter and Wendy opens Saturday and runs through December 24 at Town Hall Theatre, 3535 School St., Moraga. Info: THTC.org or 925-283-1557.
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