“Peter and the Starcatcher” kindles youthful imagination


The cast of "Peter and the Starcatcher" will perform through Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Ruth N Halls Theatre, with a matinee on Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. "Peter and the Starcatcher" is a back story to Peter Pan. Photo courtesy of Amy Osajima Buy Photos

Sail to Neverland with Peter Pan in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” showing Oct. 27 to Nov. 4 at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre. Tickets start at $10 for IU students.

An origin story for characters such as Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Hook, “Peter and the Starcatcher” tells the story of orphan Peter’s ship being taken over by the nefarious pirate captain, Black Stache, in his search for treasure. 

However, stardust proves to be much more valuable than diamonds and rubies, and Peter and Molly decide to protect it at all costs.

The show aims to go big and broad in its characterization. Characters make farcical, snappy jokes to each other, flourish their props when they speak and walk with the same energy and dynamism as if they were dancing.

“It’s not a realistic play, it’s a fantasy place,” director Murray McGibbon said. “It gives the illusion of being made up as you go along, it appears to be improvisation, but of course it’s not.”

The story of Peter and Molly deals with dreams, problems with adults and the desire to be young forever. The two follow shooting stars as they stand aboard the ship’s deck and marvel at the magical powers Molly possesses. Characters like Black Stache, occasionally speak in rhyming couplets, giving the production a sense of childish wonder.

“It’s very sincere and genuine when we’re dealing with human emotions and realities,” McGibbon said. “It could also be quite sad. Is it desirable actually to want to stay young forever?”

The play requires the audience to use creativity to imagine the story. As a ship is sinking, an undulating rope represents the ocean waves the characters are swimming through. 

At one point, a group of kids witnesses a flying cat on stage. However, the audience sees it as a toy cat tied to a rope being swung around by another actor. Captain Stache walked on stage and said, “We ask you now to imagine a grown cat in flight.”

“It’s very raw, it’s very rough, it’s pure in some kind of way,” McGibbon said.

Part of the play’s youthful charm comes from it’s use of anachronisms. Characters use bicycle wheels and trash can lids as the ship’s steering wheels. 

When two characters prepare to fight with a cane and a plunger as swords, another character speaks into a plastic water bottle as though he were at a boxing match with a microphone.

“The spontaneous energy and that playful energy with what we’re doing help tell the story in a very lighthearted but also meaningful way,” Michael Bayler, actor playing Black Stache, said.

With an accompaniment composed of a pianist and percussionist, the play occasionally features music and singing. Styles from pirate chanteys to royal marches are used as much for setting the ambiance of a scene as for comedy. 

Percussive triangle tones ring when a character might make a dramatic gesture and a staccato piano note accompanies each slow footstep of a character sneaking around. 

Every time a British character mentions Queen Victoria, a regal piano riff plays, followed by everyone standing and shouting, “God save the Queen!”

Overall, the show is worthwhile because of the youthful energy and innocent fun it brings, Bayler said.

“Live theater in general is a great way for us to connect and be affected and experience something,” Bayler said. “If you're a fan of the story of Peter Pan, this is a great look at how that all develops.”

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