Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Peter and the Starcatcher

Photo: Joan Marcus.

Well-done story theatre uses its combination of telling and showing to invite the audience into the creative process. We help the performers invent entire worlds out of  minimal props and scenery; we accept the smallest of costume adjustments as signaling a different character; we suspend our disbelief and embrace our sense of wonder. Peter and the Starcatcher, at the New York Theatre Workshop, is story theatre of the highest order, taking us on pirate ships and to tropical islands, introducing us to rotten rogues and surprising heroes, and doing a fabulous job of accessing and entertaining our inner children. Written by Rick Elice (based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) and directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, with music by Wayne Barker Peter and the Starcatcher tells the story of how an orphan--so completely abandoned that he lacks even a name--turns into the legendary Peter Pan. The cast is consistently wonderful, but special attention must be paid to Christian Borle, who gives a slapstick comic performance that is simultaneously brilliant, deeply silly, and elegant.

My one complaint is that there is only one woman in the cast (the delightful Celia Keenan-Bolger). If a man can play a woman in the show (the very funny Arnie Burton), why can't some women play men? I understand that Rees and Timbers are working out of a British tradition of male-as-female drag, but why not expand it? A quick look at the history of animated movies shows a serious dearth of female roles (Pixar is particularly bad at noticing that there are two sexes), yet girls/women want to identify with heroes of our gender as much as boys/men do. Keenan-Bolger's character is strong and important, and that's great, but thirteen men and only one woman just doesn't seem fair.

($20, second row to the right)

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