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'Peter and the Starcatcher' review: A high-flying play about the legend of Peter Pan

Spencer Bang, center, plays Peter in "Peter and

Spencer Bang, center, plays Peter in "Peter and the Starcatcher" at Argyle Theatre in Babylon. Photo Credit: Richard Termine

WHAT "Peter and the Starcatcher"

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 21, Argyle Theatre, 34 W. Main St., Babylon

INFO $49-74 ($54-$79 Saturday nights); 844-631-5483, argyletheatre.com

BOTTOM LINE A delightfully whimsical back story about the boy who refuses to grow up.

There's no escaping the theatrical variations on the beloved tale of the boy who doesn’t want to grow up. J.M. Barrie's classic "Peter Pan" has come to the stage in many incarnations, from the 1954 musical starring Mary Martin to the 2015 "Finding Neverland" to last year's sweet Off-Broadway "To Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday," playwright Sarah Ruhl's gift to her mom, who'd played Peter when she was a young woman.

But none of them is half the fun of "Peter and the Starcatcher," an irreverent prequel of sorts, now at Babylon's Argyle Theatre in a delightfully whimsical production that eschews high-tech gadgetry in favor of more playful stagecraft. 

There is no Peter at the beginning of Rick Elice's adaptation of the children's novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Instead there’s a young man known simply as The Boy, who along with a couple of friends, has been sold to an unscrupulous ship captain. How he becomes Peter Pan is a convoluted story (don’t bother trying to figure it out) involving pirates, mermaids, treasure chests and, of course, that pesky crocodile.

The story (there are songs, but it's not a traditional musical) is driven by the plucky, determined apprentice starcatcher Molly, played with delicious energy by Katrina Michaels,  the only woman in the cast. Eleven men portray everyone else, from main characters to a chorus line of mermaids. Spencer Bang is endearing as Peter, making us understand how the Lost Boys came to be, but Raji Ahsan steals the show as Black Stache, the pirate who would become Captain Hook. (How he actually lost his hand is as hysterical here as it was on Broadway, where Christian Borle won a Tony for the part.) But really, this is an ensemble cast at its best, with everyone having a moment — as the play notes quite proudly — to chew some scenery.

Amanda Connors directs the frivolity, as the characters jump about Julia Noulin-Merat's fanciful set, creating walls and doors out of nothing more than lengths of rope, a mop and a ladder or two. Costumes by Matsy Stinson add to the fantasy, especially the get-ups for that mermaid chorus — love the hat covered in toothbrushes! 

Some fans of such an enduring character might find this back story a little too flippant, but I choose to enjoy the offbeat explanations for the ticking crocodile, why Neverland is Neverland, and most especially Tinker Bell. And, yes, even in this often nonsensical take on the tale, when the sparkly fairy appears, so do the tears. 

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