The UNCG School of Theatre put on their production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” this past weekend. The play tells the story of Peter Pan before Wendy. In other words, it is a prequel to the famous “Peter Pan” story that most folks are familiar with.
The play itself was wonderfully written. At the start of the show, the audience is introduced to two ships, “The Wasp” and “The Neverland” along with Peter (not yet named), the other Lost Boys, a character named Molly, and all the other members of the crew. We come to find that there is a treasure on the Neverland called “starstuff,” which has come to be known as “pixie dust” in popular usage. This “starstuff” can make you fly, and it has turned the fish on an island into mermaids.
The script contained moments of drama, including when Peter would talk of his past. For example, he shares that he has been orphaned for so long that he forgot his real name. His name “Peter” is given to him by Blackstache, a notorious pirate. Blackstache is, of course, the name of Captain Hook before he lost his hand. Smee is also in the play as the right hand of Blackstache. Blackstache is definitely the most animated character in the show and plays well with the character Smee just like in the classic Disney adaptation.
Peter Pan has a young love named Molly, kind of a precursor to Wendy, and one can see that Peter is a lady’s man. The humor in the play is outrageous, especially at the beginning of Act II where many of the ensemble and the actor playing Blackstache crossdress as mermaids in a hilarious tune. This was my personal favorite part of the show, as the actors kept a very straight face but still had fun with it.
Jayden Wingate and Grace Howell, Peter Pan and Molly respectively, interact wonderfully together on stage. Their chemistry is obvious, and Wingate’s delicate understanding of Peter’s past and inner turmoil are present both when speaking and when not. Howell possesses a unique sensibility of understanding the literal grace of her character. Molly is a character who is calm and collected, yet is daring and ready for danger. Thus, she and Peter get along well in the script. But the script can only do so much. Wingate and Howell are perfect representations of how to get across the chemistry between two characters off a script and onto the stage.
Stetson Smith was Blackstache, a truly wonderful character, and a truly wonderful actor. Smith portrays the character with such humor and animation that one might think that they are watching a Disney animated feature. Not only this, but Smith was able to balance evil and lightheartedness in the confusing humor that Blackstache, or Captain Hook, usually has in such adaptations of this famous story. Jessica Hirsch, who plays Smee, has great chemistry with Smith on stage. The two are like Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, always playing off each other and making the show a true comedic piece.
The direction, by Chris Gilly-Forrer, was outstanding. Gilly-Forrer was able to take a long epic of two battling ships and a venture on an island into a single set that moved only so much to have the audience realize what was happening. There was never a moment where I was unclear as to what was going on in the story. There was a wonderful manifestation of the actors being used as set pieces or props, particularly once as doors, which added to the humor and the fantasy of the show. The blocking of the actors really had the audience constantly looking everywhere on stage, keeping them alive and fresh so that they were ready to see something new with every glance. The lighting was excellent and made one feel as if they were really looking at a sunset, the stars, seeing inside a ship, and being on a tropical island.
Congratulations to the cast and crew on a magnificent show. To see more about the show and who was a part of it, visit https://sites.google.com/uncg.edu/school-of-theatre/home.