Ambitious might be an understatement to describe the breadth or enormity of what the Lake Worth Playhouse has undertaken in its first official show of its 2021-2022 season. That would be Peter and the Star Catcher, a zany play by Rick Elice that first hit Broadway in the early 2010s.
Peter and the Star Catcher is based on a young adult book called Peter and The Star Catchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which is itself an unconventional loose prequel to J, M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. But as original and intriguing a fast-paced and fantastical sea-faring adventure as the show portrayed, its actual story was far from the most important aspect.
In fact, between the thick British accents used by most of the cast and the mile-a-minute pace of dialogue and plot developments, I often found myself relatively in the dark as to what was actually happening, and a few conversations I overheard at intermission suggested that I wasn’t the only one thus lost. Yet, strange as it sounds, keeping track of the linear goings on didn’t seem to take much away from the overall feeling of the show, and thus from the point.
As well as being a play with music, Peter and the Star Catcher was also a play that moved like music. A cast of twelve actors plays an abundance of characters as well as serving as a kind of chorus and occasional narrators, as they sometimes slipped into the third person to describe their characters’ actions as if they were reading from a storybook.
Choreography by Keren Lydia Reyes animates the play’s scenes as well as its musical numbers, and even the otherwise less energetic members of the ensemble give their all to create a remarkably fluid group dynamic throughout.
This, along with the wonderfully expressive and distinct characterizations drawn out of the cast by expert director Sabrina Lynn Gore, infused the piece with a non-stop energy that ensured that, confused as I was, I was never bored. Vague impressions of what was transpiring on a larger scale and the occasional reappearance of a character quirk or thematic throughline were enough to enervate the constant streams of theatrically brilliant sight gags and often anachronistic one-liners that made the show such a start-to-finish sensation.
Playful stage trickery in which pants become a flag or characters “swim” in impressionistic water make the show a feast for the eyes, as does a simple but versatile set by Ardean Landhuis and spectacular costumes by Jill Williams, which include flashy full mermaid outfits and forest-themed disguises as well as more conventional sailor attire.
There were also some memorable more down to earth scenes, such as a few precociously romantic conversations between Lara Palmer’s spunky Molly Aster and Jorge Amador’s sensitive Peter. Cast highlights also included a balding Justin Roland in drag as the bumbling nanny Bumbrake, and Kelly Williams in a variety of roles, including an insane Italian baker.
But the biggest ham and perhaps best comic of the bunch was Rhett Pennell as Stache. His uproariously hilarious set piece in Act 2 delivered a litany of laughs and also marked the point in the play when the wild digressions of the proceedings thus far finally began to dovetail into aspects of the familiar Peter Pan story that most of us know and love.
Until that point, the semi-incomprehensibility and exposition-heavy nature of the narrative had finally begun to get a bit tedious. But I found myself not only snapping back into the story as it approached its bittersweet conclusion but getting swept up enough into its sentiment that I even found myself close to tears.
While, unlike Peter himself, most of us do eventually have to grow on up, plays as earnestly enthusiastic and transporting asPeter And The Star Catchercan give us a few hours’ escape back into childlike wonder. Don’t miss your chance to catch it at the Lake Worth Playhouse on one of the next two weekends, before this October 24th!
Ilana Jael earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Sarah Lawrence College and a BA in Writing and Psychology from Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College. She also served as co-founder of the student theatre troupe “Theatre in the Raw.” She has been dabbling in both playwriting and acting since high school. A few favorite roles include Rebel in Columbinus (Bob Carter’s Actor’s Rep), The Fearful One in The Cave (G-Star School of The Arts), and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie (Theatre In The Raw). Her one-act plays Goodbye, Karma’s A Bitch, Certainly Not About Him, and Open Heart have also been previously performed at Actor’s Rep and/or at Florida Atlantic University. More recently, Ilana appeared in and created the original musical ZeeZou’s Stardust Extravaganza with Area Stage’s Miami Queer Theatre Collective. Her short plays have been produced virtually by New City Players, Theatre Lab, and Femuscripts. She is also a current company member of New City Players, and you can check out her theatre blog at ilanaintheatreland.com!