Fresh off its second and final run, Dobama Theatre’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” was a mesmerizing production of an imaginative and unique play.
Based on a 2004 best-selling children’s novel written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, “Peter and the Starcatcher” was adapted to the stage by Rick Elice, and made its way to Broadway in 2012.
The play gives the classic story of Peter Pan some background and helps provide information that aids in answering questions like: How is Peter Pan able to in fact never grow up and how did Black Stache earn his future name of “Captain Hook?”
Boasting a small but mighty cast and tons of special effects, Dobama’s production’s most notable success was displaying the importance of ensemble work in the theater.
Some effects came from the lighting and sound booth, but most were impressively executed by the cast. The play is written with a chorus style approach; 13 actors took on roles for dozens of characters. The purpose of them all was to tell a story, by showing and/or telling.
The quick speed of the spoken storyline, which established certain circumstances, was both a blessing and a curse: The ensemble narration was never boring, but one could also leave the theater a little bit confused as to what exactly was happening in the play.
Because the plot of the show is intricate and there is a lot going on in this fantasy world, most of which revolved around magic “star stuff,” second-year Case Western Reserve University student Daniel Mottern said, “The show at times felt rushed, especially when the ensemble cast was going through long expository sections.”
The ensemble’s spoken storyline is necessary because it helps in establishing the world of the show and what is to be expected.
Because of this, really, anything goes.
For example, the show is set in 1885 and mentions “her majesty Queen Victoria (God save her)” several times. Yet, Director Melissa Crum was somehow able to get away with having the characters check their cell phones for a brief amount of time when Black Stache texted everyone “OMG.”
This inventive choice happened to work—and add a super creative bit of comedy—because of the already extreme allowances of magic and somewhat absurdity accepted early on by the audience.
Mottern loved the humor in the show. “Peter Pan is someone who never wants to grow up, and the childlike, lighthearted comedy helps to make the audience feel like they’re young again,” Mottern said.
While any theater lover in Cleveland would naturally venture over to Dobama to see professional theater, some CWRU students had specific reasons for seeing Starcatcher.
Fourth-year student Caroline Canale said that she saw the show because she was very excited to see “one of [her] favorite professors and acting mentors” (Chris Bohan as Black Stache) and “one of [her] closest friends” (fourth-year Brett DiCello as Slank) perform.
There are many opportunities to take part in the professional theater community as an undergraduate student at CWRU; you might even be able to work right alongside your professor, boxing, dancing and rapping with him onstage.
And what better way to learn about acting than surrounding yourself and practicing with seasoned professionals?
Canale’s favorite part of the production was that “Chris’ interpretation of Black Stache … made you look at the classic ‘villain’ a whole new way.”
“I think in theater, it is critical to understand why people are the way they are, and this production gave some wonderful and comedic insight into what made Captain Hook who he is,” Canale said.
But even Black Stache has his place in the narrative as a member of the ensemble.
About 15 minutes before the play started, most cast members came out as their first characters and entertained the audience members by either playing instruments on stage or sitting next to audience members, making conversation and giving “breaking the fourth wall” a whole new meaning—talk about an amazing creative choice!
“It was very obvious that the cast was comfortable with this improv-type experience and they made it so much fun…. ” Canale said.
The Green Show, an interactive pre-show mingling of character and audience, really enhanced the intimacy of an already smaller scale theater: Dobama’s theater is a mix of a black box and a main stage, giving the audience the chance to surround the play by being on on three sides.
The stage was very open, with all scenery created by props and the actors themselves. They transported audience members to the beach, to the jungle, aboard pirate ships and into the ocean itself (courtesy of colorful and musical mermaids). Whether audience members personally knew the actors on stage or not, the connection between the actors and the audience was a close, unique one.
Canale said, “I love watching Chris act so much because he really utilizes everything he teaches. I always feel so proud when I see him in plays and feel so lucky that he taught me so much about theater. His movement as Black Stache was so captivating …. I was laughing
throughout almost the entire play and my heart felt happy when it was over.”
“If you’re the type of person who enjoys new experiences and loves theater in all of its varied forms, then ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ is a fantastic show for you,” Mottern said.