“Know your audience.” This was one of the foundational commands my English teachers reinforced within me about writing. And it’s obviously true about theatre, as well. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park knows their audience well and are giving them what they want with the opening of PETER AND THE STAR CATCHER in the Marx Theatre. People were laughing hysterically, applauding with gusto, and were obviously enjoying themselves throughout the 2 and a half hour production on opening night.
So I have to ask myself, am I becoming too jaded and cynical to enjoy a show like this? Have I finally reached a theatrical saturation point? Or are my tastes just booming more refined? It’s a legitimate question and it’s important that I figure it out.
In the meantime, note that I can’t find a single thing wrong with the production of this play. The acting was all at the level we’ve grown accustomed to at the Playhouse. I thought Tom Story as Captain Stache had the energy the part requires. The sincerity of Joanna Howard as “Molly,” the boyishness of Peter was present with the deep longing he has to find a trustworthy grownup in Noah Zachary’s performance. It’s all better than average.
And the technical aspects of the show are astonishing in many regards. The lights by Kenton Yeager are especially strong as are the costumes by David Kay Michelson and the set by David Kronzer.
And its a likable enough story.
I guess my biggest problem is with the Bipolar script. Ridley Pearson, whom I know from his Disney World novels for young adults, teamed up with humorist Dave Barry to write a prequel to the Peter Pan story. This book has been adapted for the stage by Rick Elice and I regret to tell you, I felt disengaged from the outset. Pearson writes wonderful fantasy; Barry is full of sardonic puns and wistfully cynical observations. Together, it doesn’t mesh for me. Act One is too long and boring – as with PETER PAN, the musical, I just want to get to Neverland already. And Act Two is ridiculously silly, with pop culture references and other jokes that don’t fit the 1885 setting. At all.
But I am quite sure that I’m in the minority.
My friend Mark D. Motz, a sports writer here in town, attended with me and said this about the show:
[PETER AND THE STAR CATCHER is] a much-needed whimsical night of escape at “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Fast, silly, imaginative and fun, with a touching dose of reality near the end: ‘It’s supposed to hurt; that’s how you know it meant something.’
He was able to see through a different lens than I. So did the majority of the audience, who seemed to be having an absolute blast. I assume most people will and for that reason, I’m recommending you check it out.
Meanwhile, I’m going to do some more self-reflection. Or maybe I just need more sleep. Either way, its worth figuring out.
PETER AND THE STAR CATCHER runs through April 4th at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Click here for more information and to get your tickets.