Peter and the Starcatcher
Zach Theatre's Peter and the Starcatcher brings storytelling magic to the tale of how Peter Pan came to be
Reviewed by Elissa Russell, Fri., Feb. 13, 2015
Peter and the StarcatcherZach Topfer Theatre, 202 S. Lamar, 512/476-0541
Through March 1
Running time: 2 hr., 25 min.
Recall the last time someone told you a bedtime story. You crawled into bed, buried yourself under piles of blankets, closed your eyes, and imagined the events as they were described to you. There were no visual effects, music, or Hollywood actors to guide you through the journey, just the words of your storyteller and your own imagination melding together to bring the tale to life. As adults, opportunities to experience stories in this way often dwindle or disappear. Happily, Zach Theatre's Peter and the Starcatcher provides an engrossing adventure of this very type, using a talented ensemble of gifted storytellers to illustrate a prequel to J.M. Barrie's beloved Peter Pan that awakens our inner child.
Though it certainly could rely upon elaborate sets and the other frills afforded to a theatre of its caliber, Zach does not use high production values as a crutch here. That's not to say they aren't present. Scott Groh's top-notch ship set looks as though it could literally transport the audience to the mystical island of Rundoon, where the characters find themselves in the play's latter half. The same atmosphere is evoked by Michael McDonald's authentic-looking period costumes and Matthew Webb's fantastical lighting design. These impeccable elements lend themselves to this pre-Peter Pan world without hogging the spotlight. Instead, it is the actors who create this production's starstuff – magic, that is – in setting the scene. In a play that begs much patience from its audience, this remarkable ensemble never loses stamina, creating crashing ocean waves from a single length of rope, flying cats from mops, and fairies from flashlights. Further, each actor impressively portrays a vast array of characters, anything from a Lost Boy to a mermaid with a Scottish accent. This is all realized by Michael Baron's sharp and seamless direction, which enables the story to unfold without missing a beat.
As the boy who never grows up, Josean Rodriguez injects an absolutely essential youthful energy into his role. At this point in time, poor Peter is merely a nameless orphan who knows little else apart from his hatred of the adults who have consistently mistreated him. He is accompanied by two soon-to-be Lost Boys, Prentiss and Ted (Luke Linsteadt and Nicolas Garza, respectively, both of whom give strong performances throughout). The three board their ship, The Neverland, mistakenly thinking they will serve as helpers to the King of Rundoon once they arrive on the island. They find a friend and determined leader in Molly Aster (playfully portrayed by a tireless Sara Burke), the precocious young daughter of Lord Aster (Jamie Goodwin), and guardian of some incredibly precious cargo.
Of course, every hero needs his adversary – or vice-versa, according to Black Stache, played by J. Robert Moore. Moore's performance as he tries to steal Molly's treasure is downright hilarious; he has all the pomp and flair of a Disney villain, plus a swashbuckling sense of comic timing. Moore consistently brings the laughs, and watching his transformation into Captain Hook is a comic peak in the production.
Peter combines beloved characters with gifted performers for a show that transports its audience to a familiar but forgotten place of childlike inquisitiveness and imagination. "To have faith is to have wings," Molly tells us, and this production's captivating storytelling will leave even the most adamant realist believing he can fly to Neverland.