‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Moves to New World Stages, Retains Most of Its Charm

Peter Pan—and by extension Peter and the Starcatcher, its prologue in play form—is a story about changes. Or, at least, it is a story about changes insofar as it is a story about stasis. The notion of Peter, and what makes him endlessly fascinating, is his ability to stay the same forever. In doing so, he’s forced to give up memory of everyone he ever loved. That seems to be the trade-off. The most tragic part of the book may be when Wendy returns to him, some time after their adventure and mentions how he saved their lives from Captain Hook.

"Who is Captain Hook?" he asked with interest when she spoke of the archenemy.

"Don’t you remember," she asked, amazed, "how you killed him and saved all our lives?"

"I forget them after I kill them," he replied carelessly.

When she expressed a doubtful hope that Tinker Bell would be glad to see her he said, "Who is Tinker Bell?"

"O Peter," she said, shocked; but even when she explained he could not remember.

"There are such a lot of them," he said. "I expect she is no more."

That, of course, is what makes Peter Pan a tragedy to any adult, though everything else contained within it may be all fun and frolic.

And the new production of Peter and the Starcatcher at New World Stages certainly abounds with fun and frolic. Rick Holmes seems delighted to be playing Black Stache, perhaps as he formerly played Lord Aster in the Broadway production of the show that nabbed five Tony Awards last year. If he is delighted, it’s for good reason; Captain Hook not only gets the best lines in the play, and the moment when he inadvertently chops off his hand is absolutely the moment that gets the best laughs. And Holmes’s performance as a giddy pirate king is exciting and vivid enough to make you long for a pirate’s life.

Alas, some of the rest of it might make you long for a glass of rum.

Jason Ralph, who originally served as Peter’s understudy in the Broadway production, plays the title character with great comic charm—right up until the moment Peter realizes he’s condemned to be a child forever (and it is a kind of condemnation). He seems too robust for much of the performance to go so gently into that eternally childlike night. You find yourself wondering why he does not struggle harder against fate given that he seemed to be struggling wildly until that moment. I suppose there’s a lot to be said about being on an island filled with many singing mermaids and some inexplicable cannibals, though.

The wistfulness, though—the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind elements of Peter Pan—those never quite seem captured here.   

All the same, is interesting to see the story move to The New World stages. A play that takes place almost entirely in the cargo hold of a ship seems suited to a stage carved out under an entire city block, and those older viewers might find the experience greatly enhanced by a glass of, if not rum, then certainly a vodka tonic. You will, at least, unlike Peter, remember Captain Hook.

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