Arts & Entertainment

‘Starcatcher’ is humorous, but lacking

By: Griff Bludworth ~Staff Writer~

It is easy to feel as if theater demands either huge musical numbers or a profound stance on life to warrant its price of admission, especially at such a grand venue as Playhouse in the Park’s Marx Theater. The Playhouse’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” tries to subvert exactly these sentiments.

Rife with innovative direction and design, lively performances and cackle-inducing one-liners, “Peter” has its share of faults, but ultimately proves that sometimes theatre can just be fun and accessible without sacrificing attention to production quality. “Peter and the Starcatcher” is Rick Elice’s stage adaptation of the Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s childrens’ novel, “Peter and the Starcatchers,” a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s classic, “Peter Pan.”

The play follows a young starcatcher apprentice, Molly Aster (Joanna Howard) and a reluctant orphan whose parents left him nameless (Noah Zachary) as they seek to safely convey a chest full of magical “star-stuff ” across, dodging and duping traitorous fellow-Brits and the villainous Captain Black Stache (Tom Story).

Joanna Howard (left) and Noah Zachary (right) portray Molly Aster and Boy respectively in “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Joanna Howard (left) and Noah Zachary (right) portray Molly Aster and Boy respectively in “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Much of the first act is made up of exposition and narrative which justifies raucous and rapid fire comedy in the second act. The second act, though, providesno break from laughter, mixing groan-worthy puns, pop culture references, careful innuendo and slapstick. No, this is not high-level comedy, but the jokes usually land, and the ones that don’t are quickly forgotten as newones arise.

Howard, as our ingenue, delivers her lines with a haughty, adolescent condescension which draws laughs and teams with Zachary to provide the show with adequate emotional backbone.

It is the comedic talents of Story as our antagonist, Black Stache and José Restrepo as his crony, Smee, that justify the price of admission. Both possess a natural gift for comedic timing and inflection, and even after a prop failure followed by a sound glitch followed by a cast-wide break of character during the performance I attended, Story drew the audience back in with an improvised quip and winning smile.

Direction and design, however, were “Peter’s” real shows of theatrical craft, as lights, set and blocking worked in tandem to suggest wild and fantastic settings.

James Kronzer’s set is simple, offering an appealing blend of simple shapes and colors as the backdrop for Kenton Yeager’s captivating light. When the jokes are over, the show tries just a little too hard to shoehorn in a message about growing up and contort the remaining loose ends so that they connect with “Peter Pan,” and the last ten minutes fall flat. But if this ruins the show for you, perhaps you missed the show’s more profound appeal to every theatregoer’s desire to be forever a boy or girl and to never grow up.

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