There’s too much story for one play in Neverwhere, but it’s a hell of a visual trip | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

There’s too much story for one play in Neverwhere, but it’s a hell of a visual trip 

Young audiences may appreciate it more than their parents.

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Suzanne Plunkett

By definition, all theater is some sort of cosplay, and by golly does this stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 1996 BBC Two series and subsequent novelization lean into the LARP-iest version of it. Ilesa Duncan's adventurous revival of Robert Kauzlaric's play (originally directed for Lifeline by Paul S. Holmquist in 2010) showcases both the merits and drawbacks of fantasy onstage—but it's inarguably one hell of a visual trip.

A moderately successful and majorly bored office drone (Jose Nateras) upends his whole universe when he crosses paths with a magical being (Samantha Newcomb) on the run from a pair of wisecracking interdimensional bogeymen (John Henry Roberts, LaQuin Groves). Teaming up with a warrior (Aneisa Hicks), a hustler (Matthew Singleton), and a rat whisperer (Michaela Petro), they set out on a subterranean Wizard of Oz -style journey beneath London's streets where finding a path home involves battles with giant bores and alliances with pigeons.

The timing of the remount seems apropos enough—thanks to the advent of streaming services, Gaiman's once-niche brand of heady, allegorical sci-fi fantasy British Invasion noir is the stuff of many different popular series, including Gaiman's own American Gods. I wonder, though, if all of the video game-ish chasing down of keys and jewelry boxes and magical whatsits works better in serialized form than crammed into two and a half hours.

The material itself likely resonates better with younger audiences, but even grown-ups will appreciate Alan Donahue's scenic and properties design-an elaborate labyrinth of kaleidoscoping, whooshing doors and architectural fragments—and Mike Oleon's personality-rich menagerie of puppets.   v


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