With their new theater currently under construction, Berry College Theater Company has undertaken an outdoor production of Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher. Fancifully unravelling the life of Peter Pan before he became the children’s literature figure we know so well, the play explores the travels of “Boy” and his orphan friends Prentiss and Tedd as they sail across the sea. The little protagonists find themselves thrown in the midst of battles, face-offs, and chases throughout the story. The little protagonists join forces with Molly in an effort to recover her father’s lost treasure, and the suspense of the story only builds from there. They find themselves facing off with the notorious Black Stache in an effort to steal back the treasure.
Despite the difficulties of an outdoor performance, the cast and crew for Peter and the Starcatcher put together an incredibly impressive production. Performed at night, the outdoor ambiance fit masterfully within the plot of the story without distracting the audience’s attention. While the occasional passing car sound was mildly distracting, this drawback was significantly outweighed by the uniqueness of an outdoor performance. With the trees, sky, and foliage to accent the set design of an old attic, the audience had the opportunity to be completely immersed in the setting of the story. Because the crew designed the set to make use of the immersive, 360-degree outdoor setting, the occasional breaking of the fourth wall seemed completely reasonable. With the audience already immersed in the setting of the play, it was fitting to have the cast make use of the entire space. Overall, the outdoor style of the play was creatively and innovatively designed.
While the set was impressive, the script was not so awe-inspiring. A large section of the play’s storyline seemed to drag excessively. The play’s pace picked up after intermission, but the first half of the play passed by so slowly. With excessive amounts of dialogue and very little action, it was difficult to get caught up in the story during the first half. We explore the backstory of “Boy,” and we learn about Molly’s quirky personality. We’re introduced to Black Stache, and some of the major plot conflicts are formulated, but that is not enough to keep the audience entertained. The dialogue is often stationary during the first half, witnessed as Molly, “Boy,” Prentiss, and Tedd discuss their histories, or as Black Stache establishes his evil intentions with his crew. Because of this, the first half feels long. However, directly after intermission, we are met with an exciting new act with energy and action. The plot’s conflicts come to fruition, and we are thrown in the midst of all the that the first half established. The story builds to its intense climax between “Boy” and Black Stache, and all the drag and slowness of the first half of the play become lost in a satisfying and enjoyable closing of the play. While the first half of the play drags, the second half of the play does well in redeeming the play.
Despite its slow first half, the play benefits from an incredible star performance from Tyler Vaughan. Acting in the role of “Boy,” Vaughan grows through the story, leaving his past as a nameless orphan boy to develop a name and an identity. As Vaughan wrestles through his past, he sincerely communicates those intense emotions with the audience, while still embracing the light-hearted nature of the show’s production. Molly frequently pokes at “Boy,” challenging him to embrace an identity and become something, As Vaughan attempts to interact in those arguments, he communicates some deeply seated emotions that resonate strongly with the audience of the product. However, he manages to do so without losing the humor and cuteness factor associated with his role. We are able to connect with his character and his past, caught up in his journey towards finding an identity. We cheer when “Boy” succeeds, and we groan when he encounters difficulty. In his role as “Boy,” Vaughan has won the hearts of the audience.
Peter and the Starcatcher was an ebullient production, full of life and energy. While the first half of the play had its dry spells, the play’s epic second half served well to excite the audience once again. As we journeyed through the orphan story, the underlying search for identity connects deeply with the audience, and we are immersed in the show’s outdoor set. All in all, the play exceeded expectations and captivated our hearts.