(By Andrew J. Friedenthal, American-Statesman freelance arts critic.)
Lost Girl, presented by the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Theatre and Dance, is a new work by playwright Kimberly Belflower that serves as a sort of sequel to J.M. Barrie’s classic play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up (and the novel he later adapted it into, Peter and Wendy). Unlike the 1991 Steven Spielberg film Hook, however, this “sequel” does not follow the story of Peter in his later days, but rather that of Barrie’s female protagonist, Wendy Darling.
In Belflower’s play, we see the impact that going to and returning from Neverland has upon Wendy’s psychology, as well as that of the Lost Boys who return to London alongside Wendy and her brothers. Through that narrative, Lost Girl explores issue of adolescence, sexuality, and self-empowerment, all through the lens of a “lost girl” facing the perils of growing up.
The metaphoric drive of Lost Girl is to showcase how Wendy is able to move beyond serving as an unwitting surrogate mother, somebody who ignores her own dreams and desires to care for boys like Peter Pan who refuse to grow up. According to her program notes, Belflower wrote this play to provide a fictional surrogate for her own emotional journey. In doing so—in exploring how an empowered woman owes nothing to a borderline abusive man-child—she has crafted a narrative that is crucial at this moment in time.
That is not to say that the play is without flaws. It vacillates between slightly over-stylized moments of Greek chorus and more direct scenes of narrative drama, with the latter ultimate proving to be more moving and affective. Director Cara Phipps’ strength lies in staging the intimate scenes set in Wendy’s bedroom (created with spare, but precise, realism by scenic designer Camry de Wet), drawing the audience in to the confines of her home and her mind.
Adriana Scamardi, as Wendy, gives a nuanced performance that highlights Wendy’s transition from childhood to womanhood, and the highs and lows that come along with slowly wresting control of her life from the specter of her fantasy-tinged past. The rest of the cast—the Lost Boys, the other women in Peter’s life, and Peter himself—provide equally strong performances, but Lost Girl is most definitely Scamardi’s show.
The union of Belflower, Phipps, and Scamardi ultimately creates a powerful trinity of women who have crafted a sweet, moving, and resonant message of feminist empowerment that is perhaps more important now than ever before.