Peter and the Star Catcher
Seminole State College, Lake Mary, FL
written by Rick Elice
music by Wayne Barker
directed by Jennifer Hart
starring Ian Gray, Nikki Cuevas, and Ryan Sutter
Origin stories are hot these days, and this may be one of the more interesting theatrical ones. We call Peter Pan the “Boy Who Dos Not Age,” and deep under that odd trope is a difficult tradeoff between Eternal Youth and The Knowledge of Good and Evil. Like all good heroes, Peter (Gray) lacks a home or family. He’s abandoned in an orphanage, a common enough crisis in Victorian days. The Orphanage signs him over to a ship hauling a mysterious cargo where he meets precocious 13-year-old Molly (Cuevas). She seems to know more about science than Bill Nye. Her dad is on a faster, more dangerous ship hauling an equally mysterious cargo to the same destination. Piratical adventures ensue, driven by one of the best heavies onstage, the over-the-top Black Stache (Sutter.) Stashe aims to capture these cargos, not knowing exactly what they are. There’s an island, there’s a chase, and there’s a drag mermaid number opening the second act. This vaulted “Star Catcher” from “Oh, no…” to “Way to go!”
Director Hart saw no need to dial anyone back; there is a good bit of over acting here. Stache and his side kick Smee (Kevin Couto) dramatize every movement, while Molly’s drag guardian Mrs. Bumbreak (William Calhoun) deals with a loose bonnet and even looser lady parts. We find a calm center here in the form of Molly’s dad Lord Aster (Stephen Lewis). He appears occasionally to give everybody a breather, then artfully dodges out to let the silliness re-build. The fishy residents of this land sport great fighting Prawn costumes with Scott Gilbert and Nikhil Desai leading their pack.
Why this show? Why this time? There’s always a place for a silly comedy in troubled times, and this one ends with a tough call on a young person’s part. Peter clings to the childhood games and dramatic but flash goals; he’s not in this to balance tough choices, limited resources, and multiple bad endpoints. Everyone else here must, and they possess goals, skill sets, plans, but Peter does not. While the rest of the cast moves forward with whatever happened, he remains frozen, trapped in a world we dream of but realize can never be practical. Like a childhood fort, the set arises from scraps of wood and repurposed furniture moved around to follow a will-o’-the wisp idea. Giant alligators and blood thirsty sea food never really threaten, and we are, for a few hours, back in our original dream worlds.