Eff Space, the warehouse stage that houses the Working Theatre Collective (WTC), is absolutely tiny—some 20 seats ring a space no larger than my living room, creating an environment that's intimate at best, and at worst, likely to send anyone averse to audience interaction into a raging panic attack.
So the WTC does something smart in the early moments of The Peter Pan Project. The actors begin a boisterous four-square game that stops just short of actively involving the audience, but implicates everyone in the room in the action—it's impossible to watch the scene without considering the possibility of being hit in the face by an errant bouncy ball. It doesn't quite break the invisible walls surrounding the production, but it acknowledges the intimacy of the space with the same playfulness and charm that characterize the show as a whole.
The four-square game in question serves as an introduction to the four characters whose journey from childhood to adulthood is plotted by The Peter Pan Project. The friends bicker on the playground, hook up after prom, work crappy office jobs, marry, and ponder infidelity, in nonlinear scenes interspersed with references to and readings from J.M. Barrie's classic story about childhood's end. (Most charmingly, a Peter-esque shadow makes an appearance, coaching one of the boys on how to kiss his prom date.)
The show's four actors—Sean Andries, Sara Lynn Herman, Craig Lamm, and Alex Leigh Ramirez, who jointly created the show with director Ashley Hollingshead—work beautifully as an ensemble, bringing the work a giddy sense of play. The fun they're clearly having is contagious, and it helps to smooth over the few moments where the show's bushy-tailed earnestness gets the best of it—where one is tempted to ask if the coming-of-age of four attractive, well-adjusted young people really warrants serious consideration. When one character has his backpack stolen on that most clichéd of liberal arts-dropout experiences—a trip to Europe—the gravity of the situation is severely undercut by the knowledge that is the same kid whose parents gave him $300 to spend on prom. He'll be fine.
But The Peter Pan Project is so transparent in its spirit of exploration and curiosity—and so artful in its approach—that it locates the universality in its themes of aging, imagination, and putting away childish things. It's charming, engaging stuff.