“Meteoric,” as in a lightspeed burst of wildly spooftacular (yes, I did just say that) freneticism. Peter and the Starcatcher at Manoa Valley Theatre is billed as being related to Peter Pan. There is a type of stardust that figures into the plot, some Lost Boys, a mustachioed character who looks suspiciously like Captain Hook (and even loses a hand), a nameless boy-cum-Peter Pan, some flying adventures, ships and pirates, British accents, a menacing crocodile who swallows a timepiece, treasure chests ― but don’t let that deter you. This is geared for adults, and it takes place in a warped galaxy of rabbit-out-of-the-hat mania.
Lights come on and characters bounce around saying this and that speedily and with accents, so that it’s all rushing by somewhat unintelligibly. One would be hard pressed to figure out who’s who and where they are supposed to be ― are they on this ship with the correct treasure chest or that ship with the decoy chest … or wait, the treasure chests were switched … or were they? As the brain creaks into sensory overload, and maybe wonders how it ended up here, firing extra neurons, trying to decipher this cornucopia of madness, something welcome happens. An anchor drops, in the form of Black Stache, the animatedly transfixing Rhansen Mars, memorable as Perchik in HPU’s recent Fiddler on the Roof. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter exactly what happens next because anything at all can happen, and Mars serves it up with villainous, mustachioed glee.
Also in a lead role, and the only female, Kim Anderson is willful, adventurous, 13-year-old Molly, who befriends orphan Peter and stands up to merry Stache. Moving about like a gangly young girl with a heroic purpose, she overflows with expression, making the most of every second of her stage time, and she’s on nearly the entire time.
What these actors and production crew do with props, sound effects, lighting, stage movement and acrobatics is ingenious. Hats off to director Bree Kale‘a Peters and her team for seamlessly pulling off such a feat in which all the bells and whistles need to shine and chime just so. That means constant split-second delivery, be it lines or sound effects. Starcatcher also is a very physical play. Relying heavily on body movement, along with help from props, sound and lighting, the actors create layers of dimension and believably summon forth a giant ship lined with roomfuls of rowdy sailors and dark, rocking, groaning passageways into the claustrophobic belly of the beast.
But this does not all take place on a ship. There’s a bright mermaid song-and-dance number ― again, note that this is an all-male cast, plus Molly ― that makes creative use of kitchen utensils. A drowning scene with Walter Gaines stands out as creatively arranged.
It’s too hard to give a name to the majority of characters, as each steps into a variety of roles along their odyssey of adventures. Gaines is excellent as a gruff and briny sailor and, in contrast, he also plays a goofy man-child on an island of natives who have a tendency to speak in a language that is comprised solely of Italian food terms.
Into this wacky brew, stir anachronistic jokes about cell phone reception, BVDs, vog, Starbucks and a pinch of Kelis. (“My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.”) Pour in poetry (“O Captain! My Captain,” of course), puns, allusion and all in all heaps of wordplay and clever one-liners, when you can catch them, amidst the constant movement, rapid dialogue and non-stop scene changes. And there’s plenty to get the brain feeling rather caffeinated.
The ending loses steam with some romantic business that might have worked better had it kept more with the harried pace to which, by now, the audience has become accustomed. For the zany potpourri Starcatcher is, these fast-speaking actors (whew, all those lines) certainly deliver an outpouring of energy, and they do it with aplomb.
the TICKET stub
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER
When: Through March 22
Where: Manoa Valley Theatre
More Info: 988-6131, manoavalleytheatre.com