Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 20, 2014

Peter and the Starcatcher

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through February 23, 2014
by R.E. Smith

“Peter and the Starcatcher” is an inventive, irreverent, and entertaining twist on familiar themes: reinventing, and repurposing not only theater conventions but the tale of Peter Pan as well. Told in a mélange of styles from English music hall, to Renaissance-fair storytelling to “Irma Vep”, there are hidden gems for all ages sprinkled throughout the script, costumes, performances and set.

Based on a young adult novel by thriller writer Ridley Pearson and humorist Dave Barry, those familiar with the book will recognize the basic framework and characters but familiarity is not needed. While this is the “origin” story of Peter Pan and Captain Hook, the true protagonist is that of Molly, an English lord’s 13-year-old daughter who gets to prove her upper crust English mettle on a grand adventure on the high seas.

The theme of childhood and imagination runs strong, and simple items are used to great effect; pieces of rope become cramped ship’s cabins, rubber gloves come to life as birds. The proscenium is littered with repurposed items, enhancing the idea that anything can be transformed with a little imagination. The cast is repurposed as well, with 12 actors portraying scores of characters, from pirates to mermaids.

There are modern references and vernacular sprinkled throughout the script and work well to connect with the younger members of the audience, some of whom seemed a bit off put by so few actors playing so many roles “I really liked it (the show), but I’m still not quite sure what was going on!” remarked one young lady. For the adults, there are sly double entendres and knowing nods to an eclectic swath of pop culture.

The entire ensemble works well together with snappy pacing and boundless energy and all had their stand-out moments. John Sanders as pirate Black Stache is given a showy and physical part with which to run amuck, but he never does so at the expense of the other players. Luke Smith as Smee, and Edward Tournier as Ted, for instance, made smaller supporting parts quite memorable.

Much of the cast and technical crew hail from the New York production and the show sails along like like the fast moving toy boats that feature prominently. There is humor, adventure, a little song, a little dance, even haiku! The laughs come broad and subtle, physical and cerebral, moments range from bawdy to tender. . .there is, indeed, something for every child and for the child in all of us.