Trustus Theater’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher, by Rick Elice, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is a fantastic voyage through the imagination and it’s absolutely not to be missed. After a hugely successful run on and off Broadway, the adult prequel to Peter Pan is skillfully brought to the Trustus stage by director Robert Richmond. In the age of sequels, prequels, and reboots, Peter and the Starcatcher truly adds to the ethos of Peter Pan, painting a portrait of a boy that longs for a home, a family, and a chance to enjoy a childhood.
The cast of pirates, lost boys, savages, and mermaids is made up of favorite local veteran actors as well as newcomers. Johnathon Monk gives us a tender and melancholy orphan in the boy who will become Peter Pan. Despite being a grown man, Monk is able to convincingly convey a childlike look of innocence and wonder, especially via his evocative eyes. This is a very physical show and whether he is pantomiming running through a jungle or doing the back stroke in the sea, Monk is a delight to watch. Grace Ann Roberts is wonderful as Molly, a plucky 13 year old over-achiever that craves adventure. Roberts gave a very natural and poised performance; I look forward to seeing her onstage again. Hunter Boyle hilariously plays Molly’s nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake. Kevin Bush plays Bumbrake’s love interest, a salty seaman named Alf. Boyle and Bush are both very funny, especially in their scenes together. The standout performance of the night is given by Paul Kaufmann as Black Stache the Pirate. The role seems written for the veteran Columbia actor. Kaufmann’s impeccable comedic timing, voice range, and general joie de vivre are all able to fully shine here. He creates a villain you can’t help but love. The ensemble as a whole is strong and does a great job of creating the world they inhabit.
Much like children at play, the actors create extraordinary places and things with ordinary everyday objects. A rope forms a doorway, a plastic glove becomes a bird. A little imagination goes a very long way here. Richmond proves you don’t need pricey special effects or elaborate costumes to leave your audience dazzled. Though not a musical, we are treated to a few very entertaining numbers under the musical direction of Caroline Weidner. She and Greg Apple provide live accompaniment throughout. The set, designed by Baxter Engle and constructed by Brandon Mclver, opens up the Trustus stage like I’ve never seen before, transforming the space into a massive ship, along with ropes and pulleys that are used to great effect throughout the show. The back wall of the stage looks directly into the dressing room, which I was afraid might be distracting, but wasn’t in the least. In fact it was a nice touch that added to the idea that this show has nothing to hide, that we’re all on this journey together. I enjoyed Matt “Ezra” Pound’s sound design, particularly before the show started where creaking ship and sea noises set the mood nicely. Jean Lomasto’s costumes are reminiscent of children playing dress-up, inventive and interesting to look at.
This is a charming tale, appropriate for children and grownups alike. It tells us an entertaining story of how Neverland became a magical island and why Peter Pan never wants to grow up. It’s sometimes hard to trust people with beloved characters from our childhood for fear we might be let down. I urge you to trust Richmond and his cast, to take their outstretched hand, leave your grownup problems behind you, and go on an adventure. You won’t regret it.
– Jennifer Hill
Photos by Richard Kiraly