Peter and the Starcatcher (Review)

Laughing all the way to Neverland

Peter and the Starcatcher at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
Peter and the Starcatcher at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

Critic's Pick

Black Stache, the comical pirate who evolves into Captain Hook in Peter and the Starcatcher — currently onstage at the Playhouse — is full of bluster and malapropisms. The valueless sand in treasure trunk is not what has his “piratical BVDs in a twist,” he claims. Rather, “I am at the end of my line. No heir apparent with no hair apparent; no bonafide heroes to hunt. And without them, what am I? Half a villain; a pirate in part; ruthless, but toothless.” He needs Peter Pan to make his own name in villainy.
In Rick Elice’s loopy script (based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel telling a backstory for the boy who refused to grow up), wordplay abounds, sometimes blowing by faster than the typhoon that comes upon ships on the way to Rundoon with three orphan boys to be sold into slavery.
But this ensemble cast can manage wind speed as they narrate and perform the hilarious show — sometimes individually, sometimes together (they reverently utter “God Save Her” whenever Queen Victoria is mentioned) — but even more so as they race through delirious reinvention of the fairytale. Each actor plays several roles —sailors, pirates, mermaids and weird natives called “Mollusks.” Everything is performed both obviously and imaginatively, from levitating (at the close end of a seesaw plank) to a storm at sea to flying (with just the suggestion of motion, no wires and no “real” taking flight). Amusing costumes, a star field of 200 incandescent light bulbs and buckets of stage magic make it possible.
Tom Story wrings every drop of comedy from Black Stache, and then squeezes for a few more. Noah Zachary evolves from a nameless, distrustful orphan into a hero, encouraged by Molly (Joanna Howard), a fearless girl who believes in Doing Right. Arturo Soria plays a lowlife captain and the King of the Mollusks; Andy Paterson is Molly’s nursemaid Mrs. Bumbrake and a very evolved mermaid; and José Restrepo fawns and schemes as Black Stache’s first mate.
Starcatcher is not a very adult cup of tea; it’s more a swig of giggle-inducing rum. But for anyone yearning to return to childhood for a few hours — reveling in clever wordplay, fart jokes and an adventure won “against impossible odds”,  this show is a must-see.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, continues through April 4.