WHAT “Peter and the Starcatcher”
WHEN | WHERE Through Feb. 25. Upcoming: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Smithtown Center for the Arts, 2 E. Main St.
TICKETS $35, $32 seniors, $20 students; 631-724-3700, smithtownpac.org
So how did Peter Pan become the flying boy who refuses to grow up? The short answer is J.M Barrie imagined him that way.
But the long answer is revealed — eventually — in Rick Elice’s 2012 Broadway play “Peter and the Starcatcher,” now making its Long Island premiere at Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. Director Ken Washington necessarily leaves most of the action in this sprawling adventure to our imagination, aided by his cast’s synchronized pantomiming of a roiling sea or a split-in-two shipwreck.
Based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel, “Starcatcher” is a split-personality mashup caught between farce and fairy tale. Although it’s rife with pre-adolescent humor, such as flatulence jokes and wince-worthy puns and malapropisms, it’s not a children’s play. Nor is it a musical, though there are songs by Wayne Barker, including a vaudevillian number featuring a mermaid chorus line, accompanied by Melissa Coyle on keyboard and Jim Waddell on percussion.
“Starcatcher” has elements of burlesque and melodrama, though its absurdity is due to an impossibly convoluted story and its sentiment depends on our memory of the original “Pan.” The title characters are an orphaned boy who, along with others, is sold into slavery, and a girl who’s a stardust custodian. Her nobleman father, played with an air of self-importance by Michael Newman, is on a secret mission for Queen Victoria to dispose of excess stardust — dangerous in the wrong hands. It’s hidden in a trunk loaded onto The Wasp, while Molly, an apprentice starcatcher played with spoiled-child petulance by Emma Geer, boards The Neverland with a second, identical trunk. The Boy, as the nameless orphan is called, is nicknamed Pete by pirates who commandeer The Neverland. Played with boyish charm by David Gow, the recent college grad is too mature to convince us he’s 13-year-old Peter Pan.
Ryan Nolin as Black Stache, soon to be aka Captain Hook, steals Act 2 with his delicious “Oh my God!” interjections. Revealing how he lost his hand is the show’s comic highlight. Rick Grossman is scene-stealing runner-up as bumbling Smee, while Eugene Dailey, cross-dressing as Molly’s nanny, draws laughs deploying her bloomers as a sail aboard Timothy Golebiewski’s wharf-like set. Her costumes and the mermaids’ are among designer Ronald Green’s cleverest.
If only “Starcatcher” could make up its mind what it wants to be when it grows up.