WPTC’s ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ is ‘fast-paced, deliciously daffy’

By David Lampe-Wilson
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The power of the imagination, once freed, seems limitless and releasing that power is the task set forth by Peter and the Starcatcher, the five-time Tony Award winning play now on stage at the Weston Playhouse. You really have to admire how the cast takes the stage, inhabits every corner and infuses it with incredible energy.

Photos by Hubert Schriebl

Rose Hemingway as Molly in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ Click photo to enlarge. Photos by Hubert Schriebl

Peter and the Starcatcher is an ersatz prequel to “Peter Pan,” and the play; based on a book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, was brought to the stage by writer Rick Elice and abetted by composer Wayne Barker’s quirky score. But this is not a musical; rather it’s a play with music, with some dancing , and with lots of dressing-up. It explores a possible origin of Neverland and its enchanted denizens. In it, an orphan boy, destined to be named Peter Pan, meets a girl trying to protect a trunkload of “star stuff” (magical dust that has fallen from the firmament) and together they travel on the adventure of a lifetime, involving pirates, mermaids, lost boys and ships at sea.

Playwright Elice peppers his dialogue with wordplay — malaprops, innuendo, puns — and poetic allusion, spinning the tale into a playful confection of hope and wonder. The production features a dozen actors playing a hundred characters and utilizing ropes, sticks and other bits of flotsam to conjure up an exhilarating childlike atmosphere.

Viewed during its preview performance, Peter and the Starcatcher holds much promise. The ensemble attacks the play with high energy and precision, slipping in and out of characters at the drop of a hat. Fast-paced, deliciously daffy and overall tremendously entertaining, the accomplished cast gives it their all, with star turns offered up by Rose Hemingway as Molly, the plucky apprentice starcatcher, and Matthew Wilkas as a high-camp Captain Black Stache. Adam Shonkwiler’s Boy, however, is so damaged, dark and brooding that he seems out of step with this fairy story, and offers little indication that his character will ever feel a sense of wonder or learn to fly.

Peter and SC Hubert2

The cast of ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ ‘inhabits every corner of the stage and infuses it with incredible energy.’

Michael Beresse’s direction is ambitious and unrelentingly paced, but the show has yet to find pauses for a laugh or a tender moment, and its breakneck speed occasionally obscures the humor or distracts from a plot point. Also muddying the waters is a sound design that is heavily miked and over-amplified; the voice of an actor stage left comes from a speaker stage right and we are not certain who is speaking or from where. This Story-Theatre-on-steroids needs the utmost clarity to be effective, something it will, hopefully, find once it has had a couple of performances in front of audiences.

Timothy R. Mackabee’s scenic design is utilitarian — all ropes, ladders and boxes — but lacks that touch of color associated with all great adventures. Leon Dobkowski’s costuming takes up some of the color slack and Seth Reisers lighting helps us keep our focus.

All the elements are here to make Peter and the Starcatcher fly; what this production needs is a light sprinkling of “star stuff” to unlock its theatrical magic.

Peter and the Starcatcher continues through July 25 at The Weston Playhouse, 703 Main St., Weston. Performances: Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, click here or call 802-824-5288.

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Filed Under: In the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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