A Tony-nominated play, Peter and the Starcatcher, has floated, on tour, into the Moore Theatre here in Seattle, but it’s hard to know exactly who should go see it. There are aspects of the production that reflect a high level of theatricality and talent. It’s known for inventive stagecraft like using a fat white rope as a doorway one minute and a corridor or a stairway another. The actors on stage are clearly multi-talented.
But the script is way overly cute, repeating, “TTFN” over and over, which would not be something youngsters even aged 10 would understand, and is all over the place with what are supposed to be cheeky, funny references. A friend who brought a 7 year old and a 10 year old found that it was way over the head of the 7 year old, who was kind of cranky about it, and the 10 year old wisely told me that the play was “random” at intermission. That’s a sentiment I heartily endorse.
The play is based on a young-adult book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. Barry and Pearson clearly endorse the version. An annotated script is for sale in the lobby for $35, if you’d like.
It’s pre-Peter Pan history. How Peter got his name, how he ended up on Neverland Island, how Black Stache ended up almost becoming Captain Hook (it doesn’t quite go all the way to the hook part), and Peter’s first “Mother,” Molly, who ends up being the mother to the next “Mother,” Wendy. And getting there is quite convoluted.
The style of the evening is impromptu storytelling. Eleven men and one woman (talented and engaging Megan Stern) begin by introducing all sorts of characters (each plays a good half dozen), and setting the stage for two ships on a journey with a trunk of Queen Victoria’s special something. But it turns out that each ship has pirates on it who both want the trunk, and who capture Molly (Stern) and her noble father (Nathan Hosner) and three orphan boys, one of whom has no name and later becomes Peter (Joey deBettencourt).
Molly somehow leads the boys to relative safety until the ship Neverland, that they are captive on, sort of, ends up breaking apart – when you would think everyone onboard would perish – but no. Peter floats on the trunk to the relative safety of the island nearby, and Molly, well I can’t remember how Molly gets to the island, but she does, and so does everyone else. And what’s in the trunk isn’t jewels, it’s “star stuff” which has special magic powers that are described but then seem to change function, and there are Indians on the island, but they are led by a disgruntled ex-chef to British royalty, and a crocodile that we never see except part of it when it’s somehow made gigantic, so all we see is it’s gigantic mouth – made by rope.
Frankly, it was so chaotic in the first act, it was all I could do to stay for the second, which opened with a drag burlesque mermaid song. Who is this supposed to be for, again?
Because it wasn’t a musical, just a “play with music,” the audio was reasonable and you could hear most of the dialogue, most of the time. The Moore looks shiny and newly painted, but the chairs are still what can be called plush metal folding chairs placed on a raked audience foundation of concrete risers with no carpeting (as yet?). Sound in there is still extremely live, with a ton of bounce, making it a risk depending on what show is in there. Sound is not particularly an issue for this production.
But there is a ton of staging on this stage, though it’s supposed to be improv’d and invented on the spot. There is a lot of choreographed movement, skillfully done (and Tony-awarded) by Steven Hoggett, which is some of the best stuff on stage. Costumes, sound, lights and set were also Tony winners, and I agree with the first 3. Set is kind of a toss up, because there is so very much stuff on the stage and it doesn’t always mesh with the “we’re just telling you an impromptu story without any set” attitude.
For a quick rundown of both the history, and an extensive moment-by-moment act description, you can go to Wikipedia, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_the_Starcatcher_(play). For tickets, if you think you know who should attend this show, go to www.stgpresents.org.