If you have any idea what’s in store for you upon entering the theater to see Peter And The Starcatcher, simply the sight of the set–though it will most likely later obscure your view of the action– will have you trembling with excitement. Once the play starts, after you have gotten used to the hard-to-catch dialogue, and book narrative spoken by the actors, you will be instantly transported to childhood, where all that matters is play, adventure, bravery, and saving the world. Rick Elice’s playful, joke-riddled, script is brought to life by a cast of all men and one woman, and geniusly creative blocking. This casting along with an overarching theme of found objects in the set and props, infuses the entire play the feeling that it is being told to us by a group of friends on the playground.
Though a few portions of the blocking are kitschy, and some of the early scenes seem flat or over-rehearsed, the players quickly perk up, and give us a delightful show. John Sanders takes the position of ring leader on this front, playing a not-so-scary villain, keeping the audience in stitches for a full two minutes with a single comedic bit. Joey deBettencourt also deserves an honorable mention, for playing a boy so well–not just any boy either, but our beloved Peter Pan–even though he is a full grown man. Completing the triad is Megan Stern, the only woman in the cast, filling the character Molly with spunk. The list could go on, however, as each and every member of the cast shines.
This play is based on the book of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. A prequel to the Peter Pan story, the play tells us how Peter Pan and Neverland came to be. The story is altered from the original in the book, but the main plot is the same. The first act is spent on a ship: two ships, to be specific. Molly and her father are on a mission, and the boy who will soon become Peter Pan, and his fellow orphans, are on their way to being sold into slavery and fed to a snake. The second act is spent on an island which will later become Neverland. All sightline problems with the set form the first act are alleviated, as the space is opened up. This set change illustrates the boys finding their freedom, but it feels disjointed from the first act, using bright neons, instead of dark browns, visually cutting the story in half. The lighting does exactly what good theater lighting should do; it bridges emotions from the actors to the audience, and tells us where we are and what time of day it is.
The surprisingly few songs in this play are played by a band of two people, each one mounted in their own treehouse-like box, roughly eight feet high, on either side of the stage. Watching them climb into place before the show will only adds to the trembling excitement.