by Macey Levin
Peter and the Starcatcher, Rick Elice’s prequel to James Barrie’s Peter Pan, seems to be building a cult-like reputation. This raucous play is produced by the GhostLit Repertory Theatre Company at Great Barrington’s St. James Place. There are problems some of which are attributable to the venue.
St. James Place is a deconsecrated church and the main performance space is the former sanctuary. The highly vaulted ceiling swallows the actors’ voices making their words indistinct. Given the tumultuous activity inherent in the play much of what happens is not defined since the dialogue is virtually indecipherable. Compounding the problem is that the heavy British accents compromise the articulation. The company may have been wise to do the show in its original home – The Barn in Egremont, Massachusetts. The physical production would have to be modified but the show would probably work better in that space’s intimacy.
The plot, based on a children’s novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, tells the story of how various characters morph into Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Smee and the lost boys along with the founding of Neverland. Eleven actors play multiple characters from pirates to natives to the orphans. We follow an orphan boy Peter and a mysterious young girl Molly as they battle brigands to save the world from the wicked. In character and out they break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience with contemporary references and vernacular. The basic story-line is a coming-of-age fantasy.
Staged by Caitlin Teeley in a madcap Commedia dell’arte style with minimal but clever props and set pieces, i.e. ladders, trunks, umbrellas for swords, as delineated in the script, the cast is high-spirited, maybe too much so. There is excessive screeching and broad hijinks where a more disciplined approach may have been more focused and entertaining. It is difficult to discern the quality of the acting given the liabilities of the playing space. The major characters – Peter (Corey Bryant,) Molly (Caroline Fairweather,) Noah Lewis Bailey (Smee) and Cody Lee Miller (Black Stache, soon to be Captain Hook) seem to capture the intent of the play though Miller is too exuberant in his campy performance.
The play has several musical numbers choreographed by Natalie Sala with music direction by Jackson Teeley. William Domack’s lighting is often too dark negating the moods he’s trying to create. The costumes are colorful but a designer is not listed in the program.
Previous works by GhostLit have been impressive especially Spring Awakening and Fun Home, both performed at The Barn. This Peter… does not match the quality we have come to expect from GhostLit Rep.
Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice, based on a children’s novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson; Music by Wayne Barker; directed by Caitlin Teeley; Choreography by Natalie Sala; Music Direction by Jackson Teeley; Fight Direction by Olivia Willcox; Lighting Design by William Domack; Stage Manager: Athena Nakrosis; Cast: Cody Lee Miller (Black Stache) Caroline Fairweather (Molly Aster) Corey Bryant (Boy/Peter) Christopher-Michael Vecchia (Grempkin/Sanchez/Mack/Fighting Prawn) Dana M. Harrison (Mrs. Bumbrake/Teacher) Olivia Willcox (Billie Slank/Hawking Clam/Robyn Falcon Scott) Thomas Whaley (Lord Leonard Aster) Noah Lewis Bailey (Smee) Harrison Lang (Alf) Noah Pott (Prentiss) Alec Bachman (Ted); Musicians: Noah Pott (Assistant Music Director/Piano) Thomas Whaley and The Cast (Sound Effects) Caroline Fairweather (Piano) Noah Pott, Thomas Whaley (Percussion); Running time: two hours, fifteen minutes; one intermission; 6/26/19 – 6/30/19; St. James Place, Great Barrington, Massachusetts