The play “Peter & the Starcatcher” by Rick Elice is based upon the novel by Dave Barry (yes, that Dave Barry, the humorist) and Ridley Pearson. Currently, it is being produced by E.D.G.E. Theatre and running at the Piven Theatre in Evanston.
The play is a work that can lend itself to complications. After all, it’s Peter Pan … or “how he became Peter Pan” … so the vast majority of any audience will walk into the production with pre-conceived notions. Therefore, a theater company taking on this production has to understand this and be able to pull it off so this story can stand out on its own. Under the brilliant direction of Melissa Crabtree, this cast did so well if you never heard of Peter Pan you’d still be able to enjoy this play.
What amazed me was how much the production did with a limited amount of stage. The Piven Theatre is not a large venue and, upon walking in, my first thought was, “Oh boy, this is going to be a challenge.” That being said, the tone of the production was cast perfectly with a set created by Taylor Tolleson made up of a choreographed combination of pallets that looked both like a dock and an island after a shipwreck. Choreography of fight scenes took full use of the entire stage so a hearty bow goes to Orion Cooling. A well-deserved nod also needs to go to the musical director Linnea Carrera. The music didn’t bury, but enhanced the scenes. And the costuming? Top notch. From the dirty, ragged orphans to the splashy pirate Black Stache, Patty Halajian’s costuming helped move the audience into the story.
The focus, without any pretense, is certainly on Peter … or more commonly known as “boy,” until given a name. However, you can’t ignore the growth of Molly Aster, the girl with grit determined to become a starcatcher. She is the true protagonist. Without her resolve, Peter may have just remained “boy.”
A solid ending to Act I leads the audience into Act 2. But neigh, Act 2 does not start out as expected, instead going for a musical number that had some members of the audience shrieking and others crying with laughter. This scene and Black Stache’s “hand death” scene alone are worth the price of admission.
I was a little thrown by some of the casting choices, but, once the actors led us into their characters, the “what?” factor disappeared. All the performances, though, were nothing less than great. I do wish there was more space to applaud them, but, alas, there is not. A few who stood out for strong voices and fantastic character work were Black Stache (Gabriel Fries), Molly Aster (Brianna Joy Ford), Mrs. Bumbrake (Adam Hoak), Alf (Tim Vance), Boy/Peter (Austin Ryan Hunt), Smee (Jonathan Crabtree) and Fighting Prawn (Becca Duff).
The packed house became enthusiastic with the acting energy put forth by the entire cast. This is not a reserved seating venue, but there are no seats I would consider bad. The only negative for the venue is they need more interior signage. Finding the building is easy. Finding the theater is a slight challenge.
All in all, “Peter & The Starcatcher,” a delightful romp to be enjoyed by anyone from 8 to 80 who love to laugh and have a good time at the theater, is completely worth the drive to Evanston.
• Rick Copper is a writer, photographer, storyteller, part-time actor and comedian with a framed master’s degree from the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism and a loose Certificate of Completion sheet of paper from Second City’s Improv program. Published works include “Crystal Lake: incorporation of a city 1914-2014.”
“PETER & THE STARCATCHER”
WHEN: Through Jan. 28
WHERE: Piven Theatre, 927 Noyes St., Evanston
COST & INFO: Presented by E.D.G.E. Theatre, “Peter & the Starcatcher” provides a humorous and fantastical backstory for the beloved character of Peter Pan and his arch-nemesis Captain Hook. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Jan. 26, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 27 and 2 p.m. Jan. 28. Tickets: $22. Tickets and information: https://edgeoforion.com.