Peter and the Starcatcher

April 04, 2017
Written by: Ted Hoover
Published by: Pittsburgh City Paper

Adapted from a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher, now at University of Pittsburgh Stages, is the origin story of Peter Pan and others from J. Barrie’s classic tale. But Rick Elice’s 2009 adaptation, an Off-Broadway and Broadway hit, is nothing less than a celebration of show biz itself.

An orphaned boy with no name (guess who) joins forces with a young girl, Molly, guarding a trunk filled with bits of fallen stars which possess great magical powers. And there’s an evil pirate named Black Stache who, at some point, looks likely to have his hand replaced by a hook. The boy, Molly and Stache, along with various pirates, Jack Tars, island natives and one crocodile, get mashed together in a story spanning the turbulent seas and a beautiful tropical paradise.

The plot, though, hardly matters. The entire evening is an occasion of theater —specifically the imagination of theater, and how seasoned comedy performers can dream up worlds of entertainment out of a nothing but a few props, hard work and razzle-dazzle.

Director Kathryn Markey and her gung-ho student cast can’t be accused of holding back: Everyone gives their all, and the level of commitment is through the roof. This very large cast is having a great deal of fun, and works overtime to generate that enjoyment in the audience.

All things considered, they don’t do half badly. Hsuan Chang and Tanner Prime play Molly and Peter with enormous sweet sincerity. Zachary Romah and Brendan Karras are very funny in supporting roles, and Dennis Schebetta attacks Stache like a dog chomping a bone.

The one drawback is, perhaps, that it’s all too much. There are too many performers on stage (this production nearly doubles the cast size); there’s too much set (it should be just a couple of ladders and boxes, not these very location-specific designs); and too much in the way of unfocused playing and hazy stage patterns in a comedy requiring an achingly perfected, laser-sharp performance style.

So I can’t say this production hits the available heights, but in the attempt, it scores an evening of fun.

Pittsburgh City Paper Review of Peter and the Starcatcher