Arts theater review

Pirates, Sir!

A performance with a large heart, now in a small room

Peter and The Starcatcher
Directed by Sarah Gazdowicz
Hub Theatre Company of Boston
First Church in Boston
November 2 - 17

I vaguely remember picking up Peter and The Starcatcher in elementary school. It had this gorgeous cover, softly coated with the library’s dust. The story was simple: a boy with no name trying to find his purpose in life. It was only at the end that I realized it was an origin story about Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. That’s why I was a little skeptical coming into the smallest venue I’ve ever seen theater be performed in. Could the Hub Theatre Company pull off this rendition of Barry and Pearson’s melodramatic novel, one written with such love and affection towards the Peter Pan mythos? The answer is no. But then how is it possible that I found myself loving this presentation of the story more than the novel’s?

It took a little bit of imagination. The performance took place in a shoe-box of a room in the First Church. Seating surrounded the actors a la “in the round,” a type of performance where the audience sits around the actors. Furthermore, the production couldn’t afford to have any bulky set pieces cluttering what little space there was. Couple that with a bare-bones band of just one woman playing the piano with sound effects, and you have some serious technical challenges for the production crew. The way they resolved these truly made this musical special.

For a musical about pirates on boats, there was an inspiring amount of water. They pulled this off by having large swathes of fabric to simulate the rise and fall of the waves. More creative choices saved space in unique ways. People became doors, “creaking” as characters pushed past them, while also serving to stand ready for the next scenes. Even the way the actors “lived” on stage made the room seem bigger than it was. They managed to take all these constraints, and through a wondrous mix of talent and theater magic, Peter and The Starcatcher’s world grew to include us.

My only gripe with the performance was how old the actors were. This is more of a personal preference, but I envisioned the cast being portrayed by children. On the other hand, having adults play these roles lended a certain kind of maturity to the play. When Peter (Claire Koenig) slowly comes to realize that life is bigger than the abuse he’s suffered through, his face captures the perfect expression, light and carefree. Even the humour has a little bit of maturity to it. There were countless anachronisms that made no sense. An outdated Hollywood reference here or some vaudevillian play fighting, and Peter and the Starcatcher became a love letter to all the grown-ups in the room who can remember those scenes.

Along with an older comedic sense, the performance had energy oozing from every possible side entrance. It was though I was watching a Monty Python movie. Non-sequitur jokes were played off with such ease that I thought I was watching a zany cartoon rather than a play. Michael John Ciszewski and Joey C. Pelletier really stole the show as Smee and Black Stache as they tip-toe between a comedic duo and a very, very gay couple.

All in all, this show was a lovely treat. After everything that’s been happening in our country the last few weeks, it was nice to forget about all that for two hours and just watch a boy fly across the stage.