Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Starcatcher vs. Starcatchers

I almost avoided the play because I don't care much for the book it's based on--but I'm glad I didn't let that keep me away in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the production I saw at the Moore Theater in Seattle on Saturday, and there were a number of ways in which I thought it improved on the book.

For one, it benefited greatly from compressing the exposition-heavy plot of the book, streamlining the original antics of three groups of sailors chasing each other's ships and each other along the high seas and around an island. The simplification made the action cleaner and easier to follow, and condensing the cast of characters allowed more development in the ones who remain. Peter, in particular, traveled an arc far from that of the natural leader he is in the books, with more emotional resonance. And parts of the book that annoyed me for various reasons were easier to take when handled briefly and with the sense of fun the cast brought to the show.

The theatrical production.especially benefits from the revision of  Black Stache--the future Captain Hook--a confident and flamboyant pirate who brings his fate upon himself and faces it with aplomb. He's not Barrie's Hook, but neither is he the Black Stache of the book, who had none of the elegance and education of the original Captain, and whose depiction I honestly don't enjoy. Instead he is his own character, and as such I could appreciate the role on its own merits, adding to rather than detracting from the play. Also, I liked the performance by the actor at the Moore, John Sanders, even more than what I've seen of Tony-winner Christian Borle's performance, because Sanders added a touch of Groucho Marx to the character that I found delicious.

Starcatcher the play also makes more clever references to the Peter Pans of Barrie and Disney, and makes the whole more of a recognizable prequel. I realize that's not what most audience members may be there for, but the passing allusions and wordplay made me think the playwright cared as much about the original source as I do. Aside fromthat, the stagecraft, especially the clever use of simple props, and the few songs there are (why are there not more songs?  she cried) helped make this a show I enjoyed far more than I expected to.

My quibbles with the books, I'll save for another post. There are lots of those left to come this month, after all.

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