‘Starcatcher’: Peter Pan’s wild ride 

The story of Peter Pan — written as a play (“Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”) by English author J.M. Barrie in 1904, then as a novel (retitled “Peter and Wendy”) in 1909 — never seems to grow old. Sort of like the iconic boy himself.

One of the latest additions to the canon of stage versions, Rick Elice’s 2012 multi-Tony-Award-winner “Peter and the Starcatcher” (developed at La Jolla Playhouse), continues the tradition. Elice adapted his play from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s children’s novel, a prequel to the Barrie original, and added a few catchy songs.

Surely this is the funniest — and yes, the hammiest — Peter Pan knockoff ever. Heard anyone conversing in the language of the extinct dodo lately? Ever wondered how the villainous Captain Hook reacted when he lost his hand? Ever seen a mermaid with collapsible vegetable streamers for breasts?

The laughs just don’t quit — not until the ending, which is just as emotionally affecting as it’s meant to be.

The complicated and dizzyingly fast-moving plot is hard to follow, but it’s the ingenuity of the production, directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, that makes this adaptation such a delight.

With a set (by Donyale Werle) consisting of little more than ropes and rigging and a couple of giant trunks, the action proceeds from shipboard to island over the course of (an overlong, it must be said) two and a half hours.

The actors not only play multiple roles but also embody everything that’s required to tell the tale, including sound effects. A yellow rubber glove on a hand becomes a bird; actors turn into creaky doors; the crocodile with the ticking tummy is a pair of red eyes and stage-wide, paper cutout teeth, manipulated by the actors.

At stake is a trunk full of dangerous “star stuff.” A certain pirate, Black Stache (the brilliantly funny John Sanders), covets that treasure. A spunky little girl, Molly (Megan Stern), is trying to guard it until it reaches its destination.

On the high seas she crosses paths with the yet-to-be-named Boy (Joey deBettencourt) and two Lost Boys and learns — and teaches — some lessons about what it means to be a compassionate person.

The witty anachronisms, double entendres and visual ticklers fly by. And the various characters — all comically costumed (by Paloma Young) — are played to the hilt by an inventive cast.

REVIEW

Peter and the Starcatcher

Presented by SHN

Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Dec. 1

Tickets: $40 to $160

Contact: (888) 746-1799 or www.shnsf.com

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About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Bio:
Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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