Two ships leave from the same port for a secluded island. One ostensibly contains a treasure belonging to Queen Victoria, the other an identical crate containing mere sand. But life is rarely that simple, is it? Especially life in a play. And so it is in Peter and the Starcatcher, an excellent production by the Actors Guild of Parkersburg of Rick Elice’s play, which is based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
The show has all the characters you expect from a Peter Pan origin story, plus several you don’t know about. You have lost boys and a pretty girl with whom Peter (known simply as Unnamed Orphan Boy for most of the play) falls in love and a dandy of a pirate captain (known as Black Stache because he doesn’t have the eponymous appendage yet) and even Smee, the captain’s trusty first mate.
But the girl isn’t the Wendy Darling we’ve come to know and love. Instead, her name is Molly and she is an apprentice Star Catcher. Played energetically and skillfully by Tru Hill, Molly is learning from her father how to protect the world from a mysterious substance called Star Stuff. It’s made of actual stars and seems to have some sort of magical power that could end the world as we know it. On the same ship with Molly and the Star Stuff are three orphan boys who have been told they are off to be servants to a king, though in reality they are destined to be food for a giant crocodile. Prentiss, played well by Phillip Essenmacher, wants badly to be the leader of the band of orphans while Ted, played with equal aplomb by Landen Stengel, just yearns for something to eat. Rounding out the group of lost boys is the boy, played admirably by Ethan Schaffer. He has no name because he was left at the orphanage so long ago he has no recollection of who he is.
Early on, the Star Stuff is threatened, as famed (at least in his own mind) pirate captain, Black Stache buys the bogus story that what’s being transported on one of the ships is actually treasure. Captain Stache is flamboyant and hilarious in the talented hands of Marty Jellison, while Smee, Black Stache’s crummy little toady, is portrayed quite well by Tim Kuehne.
But the appeal of this show goes far beyond the consistently strong performances by the large cast. The story itself is at times hilarious and tragic, fun and sad, bright and dark. But the word I would use to best describe a large portion of the show is frenetic. The pace is often breakneck, which in a lesser production than the one mounted masterfully by David Rexroad, would make the story and dialogue hard to follow, but that is definitely not the case for this show. My companion and I agreed that the show was greatly entertaining and easy to follow.
Another unique and entertaining aspect is the creative use of practically no set, traditional costumes, or props. Rope is often used to represent set pieces ranges from doors to mirrors to stairwells. Other times people are used as walls and doorways. Lighting is also used to great effect, as are sound effects, often provided by the actors themselves. It is a unique and unexpected production all around.
Peter and the Star Catcher opens at 8pm on Friday, January 12th, with subsequent evening performances on the 13th, 19th, and 20th. Matinees will take flight at 2:30pm on the 14th and 21st. Tickets are available, but don’t wait because I predict this will be a hit. See this show. You’ll be happy you did.