Neverland: A genuine and ultimately, rich character study

 

Neverland
Black Room Theatre
Written and Directed by Jeremy Hobbs
Performed by Harry Edison
Designed by Jeremy Hobbs
Lighting Technician: Justin Peter Quesnelle
Lighting Operator: Alicia Pairan
Sound Operator: Lisa DesGroseilliers
The ARTS Project
Until Dec. 16 (Note: No evening show Friday; Matinee and evening shows Sat., Matinee Sunday)
85 minutes without an intermission.

Neverland, a one-man show, written and directed by Jeremy Hobbs, is a genuine and ultimately, rich character study.

Neverland is the story of a lonely fifty-year-old mall cop Vernon Beasley, played by Harry Edison. The story explores the mirage-like line between sleeping and waking. It ventures into the absurd tragicomedy world of the Everland Mall at night, where Beasley battles a group of rogue teenage vandals. A glimpse into Beasley’s lonely world, the ways he passes the long nights, his awkward search for love, a battle with a life of regret, and the realization of a world that is quickly leaving him behind, asks the question: what are the moments in life that make it all worthwhile?

The script is at times tedious and slow, and at times indulgent in the writing instead of developing the character or plot. However, in other moments Hobbs succeeds with beautiful effect, spending time on great detail and artfully developing the play’s single character, slowly pulling at the threads until, by the end, the whole has unraveled and the character is finally revealed bare. At its core we find not the stereotypical online-dating, dungeons and dragons loving, loner night worker with whom we were first introduced, but an authentic human with whom you cannot help but sympathize. Hobbs skillfully guards his character, never too eager to give it all away, but feeds us piece by piece building both intrigue and concern. Although the plot’s twists and turns are for the most part predictable, there are a number of truly poetic moments, my favorite of which is the play’s final scene when the stars were aligned in Edison’s performance, the story, and the writing – a truly moving and rewarding experience.

The production design is largely lacking and not particularly well thought out. This is the production’s weakest aspect taking us as an audience out of some beautiful moments created before us. The show was in need of a set design as clever as the play and as beautiful as the performance. Unfortunately, the lack there of, provided a stark contrast which made its shortcomings only more apparent.

Edison’s performance is thoughtful. He stumbled over his lines occasionally and lost his place (opening night jitters no doubt) but this did little to detract from an excellent portrayal of a complicated guarded character. Edison navigates the arc from self-deprecating humor and hilarious cliche through heartbreak and melancholy and finally in the end to a bittersweet joy. A marathon performance lasting just under eighty five minutes, Edison finds nuance and honesty in a wide range of emotions, a testament to both actor and director.

This production opening night, while unpolished, and at times slow, still had much to offer: heartfelt acting, a worthy story and elegant writing. A few flaws can easily be overlooked with so much else to enjoy.

Neverland is a wonderful chance to see some local talent at its best. 

Ryan Cole is a local actor, director and founding member of Richmond and Tower Productions.


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