Review by Danny Gaisin
Have you ever wondered why Peter Pan picked the Darling residence for his nightly visits? Rick Elice’s play based on the Barry/Pearson prequel offers a rational theoretic explanation and Jackie Maxwell visually articulates the historic datum. The SHAW FESTIVAL’s artistic director goes straight for the humorus rather than the cerebrum…and the result is 2½ hours of continual laughter. The Mermaid scene will forever raise the bar for any theatre staging South Pacific’s “Honey Bun” number! Photo courtesy of David Cooper
The play may be intended for children and the continual Ipod text-phrasing may be natural for today’s teens, but somehow seem inconsistent with nineteenth century events. The farting, pratfalls and misogyny are always contemporary. The play’s similes, even the communication devices are pure today and thus contribute as much to the hilarity as the dialogue. Every anachronistic reference gleans giggles.
PETER and The Starcatcher iterates the evolution, even the naming of Peter Pan. One learns how the lost boys join him and end up at Neverland along with Hook; his pirates and a certain fairy. The Festival may have a reputation for thespian discipline and minute focus but this presentation seems to be far looser-reined and less regimented than most offerings. There is an almost improv sensation as the cast members interpret their individual personas. The ‘Hook-ish’ character is played by Martin Happer and fortunately for this scribe’s pet peeve is able to prance without resorting to ‘Flounce” – “I hate FLOUNCE”. Happer’s mobile face and lithe posturing are a winning combination for the role. His sidekick – Smee is almost overacted by Jonathan Tan but given the man’s Sheridan training; Tan naturally never crosses the line.
There are a group of denizen cannibals that are led by Billy Lake. Both he and his minions hardly need to recite their lines given the physical emotive talents they express. We especially loved the subtlety of their hiding behind oversized fig-leaves. The ‘like’ interest duo are Charlie Gallant and Kate Besworth. Their growing relationship feels credible and earns a surprising sense of compassion from the audience. Directorially intended or not, this is a visceral reaction from attentive observers. Gallant ably expresses the naiveté of his character while Besworth’s singing voice, diction and expressive mannerisms mesmerize. She almost owns the show. Strong support is contributed by James Daly as one of the lost boys. His intro & refereeing of the boxing match is one of the play’s more memorable moments.
The stage setting is simplistic utilizing ladders, ropes and a furled yardarm. F.Y.I., Designer Judith Bowden’s playbill notes define some of the nautically-derived popular terminology and should be a keepsake for every ‘Jeopardy™ aficionado. The costumes (especially the mermaid/mermen outfits) are intricate, descriptive and representative. The orchestral background under Ryan deSouza never overpowers or intrudes.
A profound summation of PETER… had to be an overheard exiting statement by a woman seated behind us. She emphatically told her partner “I want to see it again – just to get the rest of the jokes I couldn’t hear over all the laughter”. We felt the same way.
PETER and The Starcatcher is at the St. George Theatre until November 1st. T T F N !!!