James Thompson & Bridget Thesing in Peter and the Starcatcher. photo courtesy of Mind’s Eye Theatre Company.
Peter and the Starcatcher
By Rick Elice
Based on the novel by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
Music by Wayne Barker
Directed by Janet Morris
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
When I first saw that Mind’s Eye Theatre Company was doing Peter and the Starcatcher a scant 12 months after the production at Actors Theatre, I wondered if the choice was sound, but then I thought – Stuff It! Is there any better reason to do a show than passion? And this is a show that is still fresh enough in the culture to hold undeniable commercial appeal.
I question whether Peter will sustain that appeal for future generations, the way that a show like Le Miz never seems to lose its thrall. An origin story for Peter Pan that uses many of the same motifs – pirates, sailing ships, unchartered islands, and an impressionable young girl, the play lacks foundation and feels like it rides the coattails of the trend for reinventing classic stories. It relies too much on the specifics of the individual production for its full effect. Given the right mixture of talent, energy, and irreverence, it is a winner, but in the hands of amateurs, it risks turning into a mess.
Director Janet Morris has enough feeling for the material, and can corral enough loyalty, commitment, and talent within her ensemble to carry it off. She meets the challenge of shaping the loose, flowing, nearly structure less narrative of the first act into solid entertainment, even if she doesn’t entirely mask the problematic text. In the second act, plot resolution leads to some awkward moments – a slightly episodic reversal from act one.
Part of this production’s success comes from simple stagecraft that helps cast a spell – so much is accomplished with a humble stretch of rope, for example, and a giant crocodile is creatively brought to life when we aren’t looking – a basic course in misdirection. And the toss and turn of a ship is rendered through the obvious but perfect use of blocking.
Jeff Ketterman brings his knockabout, vaudeville sensibility to the role of Black Stache, which is THE role of the play. Ketterman is always more at home playing the clown, although I did find myself wishing he had cut loose even more, and let his inner zaniness really come out to play. Bridget Thesing is excellent casting for Molly, an ingénue with intelligence and empowerment, and James Thompson works hard, but his Peter is less successful, if still reliable. Other players who make a solid impact are Jordan Lyons as Prentiss, Amanda Kyle Lahti as Billie Slank, Darren McGee as Alf, and Daniel Smith as Fighting Prawn. There was not a weak link in the entire ensemble, although not everyone could match the delicious absurdity of Brian Morris’s Mrs. BumBrake, but as a company, Mind’s Eye has collected a loose repertory of reliable players: Greg Collier, Jennifer Starr, Jeff Mangum to name a few, and Morris never fails to allow each member of her cast a moment to shine.
She also gets able support from Music Director Doug Jones and Ashley Hostetter. Peter is not, strictly speaking, a musical, although it does unabashedly interject one thoroughly silly production number after intermission, but music and sound is very important to the show. The program does not specifically credit a Sound Designer, but somebody, perhaps Sound Tech Clare Hagan, had some nice work coming through the speakers.
When it works, Peter and the Starcatcher is constant whimsy and effervescent fun, and this Peter works. One of the strengths of the show is that it celebrates theatricality and storytelling with a nice sense of irony. Mind’s Eye’s version understands captures these qualities and in the process, makes you wish to be a child again.
Peter and the Starcatcher
September 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 & 24 at 7:30.
September 25 at 2:00.
Tickets are $21 and are available at
The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts box office.
Minds Eye Theatre
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.