This Shadow is more than an absence of light: He has a roguish personality, and, with his black-and-white garb and makeup, an undeniable natty flair. He sometimes seems to be the subversive id of his full-color doppelganger, Peter Pan, but he’s not averse to a decorous waltz. And with his hurtling leaps and lunges, he might give Simone Biles a run for her money.
Portrayed by Zana Gankhuyag, the Shadow is one of many inspired elements in “The Adventures of Peter Pan,” a funny, fast-paced, visually arresting new Synetic Theater production. It’s a show that doesn’t shy away from the darker currents in J.M. Barrie’s tale — Gankhuyag’s unsettling character (who is Peter Pan’s shadow) is a case in point. But director Paata Tsikurishvili and his collaborators also include a lagoon’s worth of lighter ingredients, including electric-bright fairies; bickering, bumbling pirates; a Celtic step-dancing sequence; and a mermaid ballet. Providing a gravitational center for the whole fantasia, Peter Pan (Alex Mills) radiates the right emotionally blinkered cockiness and ebullience.
Adapted from Barrie’s novel by Ed Monk (assisted by Marley Giggey and Tori Bertocci), and choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili, this “Peter Pan” is one of Synetic’s talking productions. One or two lines seem at odds with the Edwardian-rooted vibe (as when Peter asks another character “Why are you freaking out?”). But in general, the dialogue flows nicely, delivering ample humor, incorporating original Barrie lines, and never weighing down the story. (Synetic recommends the show for age 7 and up.)
Among the adaptation’s striking features is a significant backstory for Tinker Bell. Portrayed with elfin verve by Ana Tsikurishvili, the fairy is a riveting figure whose lime-green dress swirls with tiny lights and whose twitchy movements hint at the feral energy she channels. (Kendra Rai designed the show’s expressive costumes.) Kathy Gordon’s plucky Wendy registers as all the sweeter because she does not notice Tinker Bell’s jealousy.
The appealing Lost Kids (Nate Shelton, Anna Lynch and John Milward), Peter Pan’s sidekicks, push unicycles mounted with wolf masks, and looklike a raggedy biker gang. Ryan Sellers blusters drolly as the less-than-competent Captain Hook, whose squabbles with second-in-command Smee (Nathan Weinberger) and other pirates (Rob Schumacher, Bertocci and Audrey Tchoukoua) can be very funny.
The use of dialogue does not mean the production stints on the physical and visual ingenuity for which Synetic is known. There are fight sequences with clashing blades; and montages of whirling green-light fairies; and an appearance by the eerie Neverbird. Characters clamber on Neverland’s rocks, which spin to reveal the interior of the pirate ship. (Daniel Pinha is scenic designer. Co-director Vato Tsikurishvili choreographed the fights. Konstantine Lortkipanidze composed the suspenseful music.)
The nonspeaking Shadow at one point wrestles Peter Pan, a sight that might bring joy to the hearts of Jungian analysts. But when Wendy sews Peter and his Shadow back together, the two align more quickly than you can say “Never grow up.”
The Adventures of Peter Pan, based on J.M. Barrie’s novel. Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili; lighting design, Mary Keegan; properties, Patti Kalil; sound, Thomas Sowers. With Thomas Beheler and Scott Whalen. Two hours. Tickets: $15-$60. Through Nov. 19 at 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. Visit synetictheater.org or call 866-811-4111.