Make us your home page
Instagram

Review: 'Peter and the Starcatcher' delights at Freefall Theatre

Kelly Pekar plays Molly and Lucas Wells plays Peter in Freefall Theatre’s Peter and the Starcatcher.

Photo by Allison Davis Photography

Kelly Pekar plays Molly and Lucas Wells plays Peter in Freefall Theatre’s Peter and the Starcatcher.

ST. PETERSBURG — The open beams, which bear the weight of a sailing ship, catch the eye even before Peter and the Starcatcher begins at Freefall Theatre.

The smell of burlap and canvas hangs in the air like the inside of an old tent. Whether that scent existed beyond my imagination really doesn't matter. The scenic design by Charles Murdock Lucas is that convincing.

A prequel to J.M. Barrie's 1904 play Peter Pan, Starcatcher began as a young adult novel by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry. Rick Elice adapted the book as a stage play, which won five Tonys in 2012.

Some productions want to entertain and skip anything too deep or troublesome. Others go for meaning and intend to challenge the audience.

This one, directed by Freefall's artistic director Eric Davis, does both. Scenes shift in seconds, with minimal costume or set changes. A dozen actors make it happen, some playing multiple roles or even forming part of the set itself, as when several of them link up to become the prow of a ship. Even a carefully held coonskin cap gets a cameo as a nuzzling cat.

The scenes jump in quantum space between ships on the high seas, an island inhabited by cannibals who can't decide whether they want to be entertained by their guests or eat them, above and below the decks and under water.

There's a plot, something about steamer trunks and pirate treasure. But that doesn't matter either. This show is almost a spoof of traditional structures, down to an absurdly funny chorus line of mermaids familiar to those of us who remember Weeki Wachee or Webb's City.

The most significant story line is the direction of Peter, whose experiences have cheated him out of the childhood he will soon outgrow. Molly, the older teen who is drawn to him, is the counterargument to never growing up, the central choice Peter will have to make.

Scenes between Peter (Lucas Wells) and Molly (Kelly Pekar) on the ship's deck provide the show's sweetest and most captivating moments. It is a credit to everyone involved that none of this wonderment comes across as the least bit cloying. A lighthearted touch throughout delves into silliness, including jokes about flatulence and vomiting (most of the central characters, after all, are adolescent boys) without turning this into a silly play.

Challenging Peter, Molly and Molly's kidnaped father, Lord Leonard Aster (played with charming sadness by Daniel Schwab), is pirate leader Black Stache. As the flamboyant Captain Hook corollary, Chris Crawford keeps the comic relief at a high level.

As sometimes happens at Freefall, the staging at times extends into the audience. Even when it doesn't, watching the characters try to walk on stage during a storm could give you motion sickness.

Musicians Michael Raabe on piano and Burt Rushing, who plays a slew of percussion instruments, deserve special mention. The pair supply a running gallery of sound effects worthy of an NPR radio show, consistent with the numerous fun elements of this show.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

. If you go

Peter and the Starcatcher

The show runs through Dec. 24 at Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $33-$48. (727) 498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.

Review: 'Peter and the Starcatcher' delights at Freefall Theatre 12/07/15 [Last modified: Monday, December 7, 2015 3:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground

    Blogs

    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23

    Events

    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22

    Events

    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/pvidela@bradenton.com 12/20/07
  4. Spring Hill to mark golden anniversary with celebration at Lake House

    Events

    SPRING HILL

    It was 1967 when the Deltona Corp. began selling homes in western Hernando County, a rural area that previously had been little more than a vast forest of oak and pine trees.

    This photo, taken in 1967, shows Spring Hill’s signature waterfall at the intersection of Spring Hill Drive and U.S. 19. The community will celebrate its 50th anniversary on July 27.
  5. Cridlin: Linkin Park's Chester Bennington had a wail that stood apart

    Music & Concerts

    For all the old-timers' talk about how they don't make singers like they used to, about how rock vocalists of the 21st century can't hold a candle to the frontmen of yesteryear, here's a fact no hater could deny:

    Chester Bennington could flat-out wail.

    Chester Bennington of Linkin Park  performs at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the 2014 Carnivores Tour. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]