Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Clapped, I Believe: Peter and the Starcatcher

There are not many Saturday afternoon experiences truly worth an hour plus drive in a minivan back and forth in the rain with four rowdy third grade boys. Boys whose antics could give the Lost Boys a run for their money.

But I just experienced one of them.

The New York Theater Workshop's production of Peter and the Starcatcher was such a whimsical, witty, and uproarious good time, it might actually have been worth a minivan ride with double that amount of third grade boys. No, really.

We all know Captain Hook is a diva - but Christian Borle's interpretation of the vocabularily-challenged, eccentric and over the top Black Stache (the name of the pre-prosthesis pirate imagined by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, on whose Peter and the Starcatchers series the play is based) was sublime. Like Tiny Cooper (from John Green and David Levithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson) on steroids. And more flamboyant-er, if that's possible (no, good reader, that -er is not a spelling error. flamboyant without the -er does not begin to describe this manly moustachioed menace.)

The rest of the characters - pirates, the lost boys, the boy with no name, the intrepid Molly Astor - are energetic, edgy and full of heart -- and the entire cast walks that interesting line between being utterly in-the-moment and utterly self-conscious of their own theatricality. The production has very few props and set decorations - rather, with simple items such as boxes, rope, and toy ships, the cast themselves embody the setting - human beings become tables, doorways, the jungle, the sea. My favorite human-as-setting moment was when one of the cast wheeled in lying down on a dolly - only to spray an about-to-be-thrown-overboard character in the face with two hand held water pump bottles. Signifying sea-foam, of course.

In a world of so much glitz and glamour - theatricality that recognizes its own absurdity is a breath of sea-fresh air. Like children's literature, the production was a celebration of imagination's limitless possibilities. You want an explanation for why boys can fly? Sure, I'll give you one - it's because of professional starcatchers who have learned the secret of capturing magic celestial star... stuff.

I don't know what magic star stuff is, but I'm pretty sure this production was drunk on it. And I'm feeling a little giddy too.

Do I believe in Tinkerbell? Well, not so much since she sold out and went all merchandise-y and commercial on us. But will I clap to show I believe in Black Stache and all his theatrical cohorts? I will, and I did, and I do believe - I believe in pirate divas, I believe in hairy men playing mermaids, I believe in political jokes mixed in with tender, heartbreakingly awkward first kisses.

As we were climbing back into the minivan one of the cast walked by: Arnie Burton, who plays the nanny Mrs. Bumbrake. He graciously stopped to chat with his adoring fans. One of my son's friends yelled out, "Hey Nanna, say hello to Fighting Prawn for us!" Another yelled out, "Hey Nanna, say hello to -- nobody for us!"

Arnie nodded, 'hah hah very funny,' and walked on. And while I drove that minivan full of rowdy, hungry, not-very-lost boys back to their parents, I couldn't help think that I had re-discovered a part of my own childhood somewhere on the way.

The run at the New York Theater Workshop ends tomorrow, if the website is to be believed. But keep an eye out for it in other communities - or hopefully on rather than off Broadway!


  1. Thanks for this. I will keep an eye on the shows in town then!

  2. How fun! My kids and I are still reading Peter and the Starcatchers (in novel form) and loving it! Have you read any of the others in the series? I'm jealous you got to see it on stage. Sounds fab.

  3. @MuMuGB - do, it was simply brilliant! I think it was in California before NYC, maybe will come to London?
    @Kari - I haven't read them, but am about to. K's read all of them and loves them of course. It was sheer fabulousness - So. Much. Fun. Haven't laughed that much or that loudly in a long time (nonetheless in a theater!)