Sunday, March 29, 2015

Peter and the Starcatcher at The Playhouse

Children’s Theatre with an Adult Kink

     I told Neil it would be a day or two before I could write up a review of Peter and the Starcatcher at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.  He shrugged, then said, “Oh well, that’s fine,” and that about sums up this production.  Adapted by Rick Elice from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s 2006 children’s novel – and a very long one at that – it plays like children’s story
theatre.  There weren’t many children at the evening performance we attended, but it does seem like something that they’d enjoy, except for the length.

The First Act*
     The plot basically acts as a prequel to what most of us know about J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904).  The first fifteen minutes were extremely busy with the cast rushing about the stage, pushing large props, and breathlessly narrating an involved set up with two different ships and all sorts of action above and below deck that I kept misinterpreting.  Ben Brantley was highly impressed by the sinking of one of the ships in the Broadway production, but I couldn’t even remember which ship sank.  The problem was that Artistic Director Blake Robison’s direction wasn’t focused.  

     The second act was much stronger in terms of explaining the story through a series of tableaux and musical numbers.  Actually, the first act is a complex adventure story that never seems to go anywhere, while the second act was a musical pantomime with running gags, extended bits (one of them could have been trimmed, which is again a symptom of directorial sloppiness), and moments of real wonder, capped by a poignant final image.

Restrepo (far left), Vanoy (middle) and Story (second from right)*
     The cast was strong with each member of the ensemble getting the chance to shine.  Tom Story was highly energetic and amusing as Black Stache, the main pirate.  At times, he seemed to be channeling Eddie Izzard.  Joanna Howard 
Molly and Boy*
was strong as Molly Aster as was Noah Zachary as the Boy.  Nick Vannoy was stalwart and funny as Alf and it was good to see him again after a couple of years ago at Actors Theatre of Louisville; plus, he studied at NKU.  José Restrepo has one of the most incredible tattoos in addition to a witty, clear acting style as Smee.  I could point out each of the actors.

Black Stache and Boy*
     It’s a family show that behaves like one of the second string Disney/Pixar movies like Monsters University (2013).  It’s enjoyable, but it feels like a retread that doesn’t capture the magic of the original or, in this case, the Barrie source material.  Perhaps Mr. Robison should consider presenting a classic and re-envisioning it, rather than jumping on the bandwagon for something new that, frankly, has been overrated.  

     What is it with yakky Cincinnati audiences lately?  Why can’t they refrain from sharing their opinions or confirming what was said on stage?  There was a twenty-five minute – yes, the length of a TV sitcom – intermission during which the management could make some bucks selling even more liquor to loosen more tongues, every last person could use the restroom, and yap on endlessly.  Maybe some of them should start a blog instead like we did.  

*photos by Sandy Underwood
Peter and the Starcatcher runs through April 4, 2015.

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