Saturday, March 31, 2018

Peter and the Starcatcher at Lakewood

by Michael Dresdner

Yes! A battle of sailing ships at sea!  All photos by Tim Johnston 

Tomorrow is Easter, Passover, April Fool’s Day, and even my granddaughter’s birthday; an eclectic confluence of mostly unrelated events all falling on one day. Thus, it is fitting that Lakewood Playhouse chose this weekend to roll out the fast-paced, highly enjoyable, comedic hodge-podge that is Peter and the Starcatcher.

The play, adapted by Rick Elice and directed by John Munn, unfolds just as you’d expect of something written by comedy writer Dave Barry and adventure author Ridley Pearson. It’s an unlikely concatenation of action and gags thrown together like a teenager’s plate on a buffet line; all appetizers and dessert. Everything is delicious, but you’d hardly call it a well-structured culinary presentation.

Lost boys, L to R: Boy (Emily Cohen),  Prentiss (Gunnar Ray), Ted (Nigel Kelley) 

There is a bit of a plot, convoluted and tinged with magic, that more or less sets up the famous story Peter Pan. We learn why Peter and the lost boys never grow up (magic star stuff that lets them relive their missed youth, stolen at an abusive orphanage), how Captain Hook lost his hand (nope, not to a crocodile), and why Wendy’s mother both remembers Peter Pan and allows him to abscond with her daughter.

Mostly, though, it is a platform to allow actors to zip through all their talents; acting, singing, dancing, and comedy, through fast-paced physical and aural gags, all with a vague air of improv about it. It’s a pastiche of all your comedy favorites, with hints of Marx Brothers, Monty Python, The Princess Bride, Blazing Saddles (yes, there are fart jokes), and many more.

Front: Kyle Sinclair. Back row: Chap Wolff, Milton Manase, Tony L. Williams, 

Fortunately, for this sort of thing only works with exceptional actors, the cast was well-chosen to pull off this rubber-faced and rubber-limbed mayhem. Leading the pack is Black Stache, played by Kyle Sinclair, an actor simply dripping with stage presence, agility, and great comic delivery. He would have stolen the show if it weren’t for so much outstanding competition from the rest of the cast.

L to R: Martin Larson, McKenna Sanford

Next up is Mrs. Bumbrake, the nanny of female lead Molly (McKenna Sanford). Bumbrake is played by Martin Larson, who delightfully minces his way into the hearts of those who loved Mrs. Doubtfire and The Birdcage. Playing off him, and keeping up at every turn, is the bizarre, multi-faceted, love-smitten Alf (W. Scott Pinkston.)

L to R: Kyle Sinclair, James Wrede 

Young Ms. Sanford as Molly easily holds her own, though she and her father, Lord Aster, rendered with stoic imperialism by James Wrede, are the most normal and serious of the lot, which is not saying much. The Boy who will eventually become Peter is, true to form, played most adroitly by a woman (remember Mary Martin?) named Emily Cohen, who, as it turns out, was also the fight choreographer. Filling out the lost boy trio quite nicely are Ted (Parker Dean) and Prentiss (Gunnar Ray).

L to R: Gunnar Ray, McKenna Sanford, Parker Dean 

More silliness, singing, dancing, and flamboyantly clever production numbers ensue from the rest of this gaggle of talent, including Tony L. Williams as Bill Slank/Hawking Clam, Chap Wolf as the wonderful sidekick Smee, Aaron Mohs-Hale as Captain Scott, Milton Manase in several roles, mostly as a low-life heavy, and the diminutive Nigel Kelley as the island king Fighting Prawn. In short, it’s an outstanding cast with a huge mix of talents.

They had the good fortune of being supported by an equally adept crew. After proving himself again and again, Blake York has a well-earned reputation as the best set designer around. This one evokes a children’s tree house built with random found boards cobbled together haphazardly; the perfect backdrop for childhood fantasizing of anything from a castle keep to a pirate ship. Set dressing and props, and there were a lot of them, all terrific, were by Karrie Morrison.

Eclectic and interesting costumes were by Naarah McDonald, wide ranging lighting by Jacob Viramontes, and music was by Deborah Armstrong. On something as complex as this, we should also give a nod to the undoubtedly overworked stage manager Madisen Crowley.

The play is long, but the rapid-fire comedy and non-stop action make it move swiftly. It may not print itself on your memory as one of the great, epic stories, but I think it’s fair to say you’ll come away fully entertained.  

Peter and the Starcatcher
March 30 to April 22, 2018
Lakewood Playhouse

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