“Peter and the Starcatcher,” and Vote Yes on 3!

With Lindsay Eagle, Robert Benton Orzalli, Michael John Ciszewski, Lauren Elias, Joey Cletis Pelletier, Molly Kimmerling, Claire Koenig and Bob Mussett. Picture by Tim Gurczak.

Produced by Hub Theatre of Boston
Written by Rick Elice
Music by Wayne Barker
Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Directed by Sarah GazdowiczNovember 2 – 17, 2018
First Church of Boston
66 Marlborough Street
Boston, MA 02116

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Review by Diana Lu

(Boston, MA) Peter and the Starcatcher is a reimagined origin story for Peter Pan. Before he was the boy who wouldn’t grow up, Peter was an orphan with no name, no friends, and no home. Robbed of their childhoods, Peter and his fellow lost boys are sold to the treacherous, orphan-hating captain of The Neverland, Bill Slank. Slank has stolen Queen Victoria’s treasure trunk and left a decoy in its place on HMS The Wasp. Also aboard The Neverland is Molly Aster, daughter of The Wasp’s captain, righteous and patriotic Lord Leonard Aster. The Asters are revealed to be more than imperial apologists when a band of pirates capture The Wasp and sail for Neverland’s stolen treasure. The adventure lands everyone on Mollusk Island, inhabited by a tribe of English-hating Italian chefs, allowing Peter to discover who he truly is and where he belongs.

The multitalented ensemble cast was a joy to watch. The actors were remarkable and I hope to see them all go on to brilliant careers in musical theater and beyond. They truly deserve all the success in the world. We’re so fortunate to have this energy, passion, and devotion bringing the performing arts to the people of Boston.

Actors played multiple roles, did sound effects, and also played scenery, which made the small stage a ship, an island, a mermaid grotto, the whole sea. The actors change characters frequently and break into meta-character, speaking as narrator or subtext. I’ve only ever seen these techniques employed in improv, and I thought they did a marvelous job of this. If you’re not expecting this sort of thing, it can be difficult to follow at first, but I assure you it is pure magic.

The script wasn’t perfect. The pacing and energy were a bit uneven, going from frenetic chaos one moment to a couple people standing silently the next. At times, watching the play felt like being on a ship in a storm. There were a lot of great one-liners, but by the end of the 3-hour run, I felt like I had pun fatigue. The beginning, in the intimate theater gave a delicious aura of being stowaway voyeurs, but most of the show really belongs on a much bigger stage, with dramatic lighting and lush orchestral accompaniment.

I loved the gender-bending casting, and how they subverted the Disney trope of making villains effeminate or vaguely gay, by making them gradually more and more unambiguously, unabashedly flaming!

However, the feminism and depiction of indigenous people felt wonky to me. Molly wasn’t written like a believable young woman, even as the motherless daughter of a ship’s captain. Also, using stereotypical Native American tropes to denote “savages”, but just replacing them with Italians still rubbed me the wrong way.  Analogously, if a show kept playing an oriental riff to denote foreignness, I would consider that inherently racist and gauche, no matter who was being portrayed as foreign. This reinforces, instead of subverts the underlying racist assumptions.

I really appreciated that the production team made an announcement after the show to Vote Yes on 3. It seems like preaching to the choir, but as I walked out of the theater, I heard a couple discussing the referendum. One guy hadn’t heard about this vote and he was shocked that anybody would want to repeal a law that preserves our fellow human beings’ safety and dignity. Now he is going to vote yes on 3.

Not only was this a fantastic production, it also inspired me to speak up more, because no matter how small a voice you think you have, or how little a difference you think you can make, it can make a difference. It might make THE difference. you never know, every little bit counts. And you might end up making a better world for someone who feels like they don’t have a home.

These amazing performances are pay-what-can, so all you need is stamina to see this show. Bring your whole family if your kids can stay up late and stay in their seats. If not, definitely, definitely still support The Hub Theatre of Boston in all their fantastic work.

And for the love of all the good in the world, vote yes on 3!

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