It would be understandable to think that this five-hour, two-part, two-venue production of Peer Gynt is strictly for the theater geeks. It would also be wrong, because Peer Gynt may be the best and most absorbing show yet from the prodigious director John Blondell. Brilliantly staged and played, Lit Moon’s Peer Gynt is a direct and accessible version of a genuine masterpiece. Each of the three actors who play the hero — Chris Wagstaffe (Acts I-III), Peter John Duda (Act IV), and Stanley Hoffman (Act V) — make something different and memorable out of him. Gynt is a cosmic everyman for the capitalist era. His joys, his anguish, and his fate all mirror the desperate alienation and implacable yearning of the modern era. As Peer’s mother, Aase, Victoria Finlayson offers one of her finest performances, including a heartbreaking deathbed scene with the talented young Wagstaffe played with scorching intensity. Marie Ponce excels as Anitra in a long duet with Duda in Act IV, and Lauren White makes a great Solveig — beautiful, forgiving, and infinitely tender even when Peer is at his most difficult.
At the heart of the play lies the profound distinction between the trolls, who embody selfishness, and Peer Gynt, who somehow remains human despite years of trollish behavior. The poetic riches of this dazzling text are too numerous to catalogue. Congratulations to the marvelous cast and crew, including Mitchell Thomas as the Troll King, actors Diana Small and Nolan Hamlin in numerous roles, and Miller James, who created the wonderful costumes, for making this epic drama a must-see.