To be honest, I walked into the Tabard’s upstairs theater expecting to be disappointed. As a fan of both the original Peter Pan stories and the more recent Barry and Pearson book series that inspired the play, I arrived with high expectations.
I was happy to be proved wrong.
The Tabard Theater’s new production of Peter and the Starcatcher is sharp, witty and fun, never straying too far from the source material while expertly adapting the story into fun ensemble scenes whether you know everything about Peter Pan or nothing. The small stage and lower production value mean that it’s not going to be just like going to see the show on Broadway. Still, the show is very good. Its moments of hilarity and heart, easily make up for its faults.
The real star of the show is the script. The playwright, Rick Elice, combined the perfect mix of fun and silliness while still grounding the play in real human emotion. The show opens with the cast seamlessly trading off lines of necessary exposition before breaking out into their defined roles.
Throughout the show, each actor plays multiple roles, often with only a small costume or physicality change. Even the leads may suddenly become pirates or sailors in the blink of an eye. Yet, to the credit of the actors and director, it never becomes confusing for the audience.
Most excitingly, the title role of Peter Pan is played by local Bellarmine High School Senior, Tyler Okunski. It can be difficult to capture the childlike spirit of Pan while also portraying the harder and more grown up aspects of the character. However Okunski and his fellow lost boys, Edward Clark and Marcus Gaye, nail it.
The staging is also a joy to watch. In the first act, actors double as doors and ropes become walls and staircases, quickly and economically suggesting the cramped quarters. But the show really comes into its own when the characters wash up on the magical Neverland Island and the rollicking adventure really begins. Complete with giant flying crocodiles and the majority of the cast dressed up as fluttering mermaids, the show provides several genuine belly laughs while still delivering a thoughtful story.
The biggest disappointment of the play however was the characterization of the female lead, Molly. Played by Ari Lagomersino, the role falls into a trap of clichés that I found discouraging. In the book, the authors created a thoughtful, inquisitive and adventurous girl with whom I identified as a girl. Unfortunately, in the play, the character is stripped of much of her complexity and made into a bossy Brit who is hard to connect with on stage.
Despite this, the play is genuinely fun and a good way to spend an evening. The show is an adventure and, in its better moments, a delight.
Peter and the Starcatcher is playing from September 15 – October 8, 2017 at the Tabard Theater in San Pedro Square, 29 North San Pedro Street, San Jose, CA. Tickets run from $18 to $45. The show runs about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Photos Courtesy of the Tabard Theater.