“Peter and the Starcatcher”

story by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
adapted for theater by Rick Elice
music by Wayne Barkerr
directed by Matt Goodrich

Ashland, OR
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Peter and the Starcatcher (2020): Preston Mead (Boy), Grace Chan Ng (Molly). Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Peter and the Starcatcher (2020): Preston Mead (Boy), Grace Chan Ng (Molly).
Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

I didn’t grow up watching, reading, or otherwise being infused with Peter Pan lore. Sure, I knew that there was a kids’ story about him and fairy we clapped for named Tinkerbell. But, when I walked into the theater for Peter and the Starcatcher I didn’t remember anything about lost boys, Mrs. Darling, or any plot.

My ignorance ultimately didn’t keep me from applauding this very fast-paced comedic prequel. But, it took me a while to figure out who people were and why I cared. For much of the first act characters popped up and took roles that most of the audience apparently recognized from Peter and Wendy. Those in the know enjoyed the fresh take on the characters and appreciated the skill of the backstories. On the other hand, I was left a little dizzy at the rapid-fire, sometimes very broad or very obvious activities on stage.

The moments of juvenile humor didn’t help my struggle to get into the play. Fart jokes –even when executed with the supreme skill of K.T. Vogt — start me looking for the exit.

Peter and the Starcatcher (2020): Cyndii Johnson (Ted), Grace Chan Ng (Molly), Preston Mead (Boy), Dan Lin (Prentiss). Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Peter and the Starcatcher (2020): Cyndii Johnson (Ted), Grace Chan Ng (Molly),
Preston Mead (Boy), Dan Lin (Prentiss).
Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The second act was much better for me. There was more word play and no farts. Moreover, by then I’d figured out who was who and had some sense of their motivation. That let truly enjoy the comedic acting gems on stage.

Throughout the performance, even when I was dazed by the early comings and goings, the cast gave perfectly-timed, strong moments. Preston Mead (Boy) has a sense of presence that’s for days. He was innocent one moment and determined the next. I kept checking the program trying, in vain, to find the Equity* asterisk that would have explained his experience in developing character in a basically fluffy piece. Michael Hume (Captain Scott) was a sometimes stuffy, sometimes knowledgeable, caricature who was just believable enough to support the story. Very fun.

I was especially happy to see Brent Hinkley (Smee) be differently ridiculous than I have seen him before. And, wow! — James Ryen (Black Stache) was simply fun.

This is another OSF production where I feel that each actor should be separately praised. Molly, the boys, the crew members, the teacher, the other lords — everyone fit in and zinged the story along.

One of my favorite moments is a scene of mermaids, and the gaudy, but appropriate, outrageous by costume designer Melissa Torchia were a real treat. Those items of apparel doth definitely proclaimed the maids.

By the end of the second act I was hearing and understanding and immensely enjoying every moment. There’s so much inventiveness and witty words, I would like to see Peter and the Starcatcher a second time. It’s may be a romp, but it is a head-spinning romp.

I saw the play opening night, and some of the rushing and frenzy of the first act could be related to that excitement. After some performances, the timing and clarity may improve and draw in people not steeped in Peter and Wendy lore. For the show I saw Act I was 3 stars while Act II was 5… so

Ozdachs rating:
4 out of 5 Syntaxes

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