Venice Gondolier Sun
By Kim Cool
Features Editor


In the hands of humorist Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a prequel to “Peter Pan,” is a non-stop, rib-tickling, fun-for-all-ages work that gives new meaning to absurdity.

Barry and Pearson wrote the novel. Rick Ellice adapted that for the stage, where it proves to be even more of the above.

Playing in the Pinkerton for just two weeks, which ends Sunday, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a must for anyone who loves a good story as much as a good laugh. With this show, you get both.

Molly Aster (Samantha Crawford) and her father Lord Leonard Aster (Dennis Berkery) sail on separate ships to a common destination. Molly is accompanied by her guardian Mrs. Bumbrake, memorably (in a most delightful manner) performed by recent Mississippi marketing/theater grad Luke Manual McFatrich.

Molly is a precocious 13-year-old who can understand when her father speaks in the language of a bird or some other creature. Crawford acquits herself quite well in this wonderful hysterical-not-quite-historical bit of theater that delighted Broadway patrons for 319 performances when it debuted in 2012.

Berkery’s son Casey portrays Peter, an orphan with no last name and innocence of the world given his sad situation.

Berkery does a fine job as the innocent orphan with no surname who grows beyond his years on the high seas. There he finds a friend in Molly and adventure beyond one’s dreams and nightmares. With his fellow orphans and his friend Molly who is bright beyond her years, he literally learns to sink or swim while helping Molly, who is charged with protecting a treasure chest filled with mystical items safe from the pirates who would use it in the wrong way.

Portraying Molly’s governess, Mrs. Bumbrake, is Luke Manual McFatrich, a marketing/theater graduate of Mississippi State. Equally outrageous and horribly funny are Cory Woomert as the pirate Black Stache and Judah Woomert as Smee, a pirate in training.

They deliver liberal doses of outrageous zaniness to tickle the funny bone of even the most curmudgeonly person. Cory Woomert played the same role at Manatee Players last year.

Set designer Tim Wisgerhof (he must never sleep) created all sorts of wondrous designs on the floor and magical things suspended above. The clever use of ladders in myriad ways provides additional fun. Wisgerhof also is hard at work designing a new set for the theater’s 17th annual December production of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” and other upcoming shows.

Sadly, this production closes Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16.

Kathy Pingel, who co-directed the show last year in Ansbach, Germany, directs this production.

“It takes a group of inventive and fearless actors and technicians to do this delightful show justice,” Pingel said. “No special effects are used, so we rely on talent and imagination.”

Michelle Neal is the music director and Geena Ravella is the choreographer with stage management by Madeline McGrail, sound by Dorian Boyd, costumes by Francine Smelts and lighting by John Michael Andzulis. Others in the cast include Jeremy Guerrero, who has provided Venice theater-goers with so many excellent performances in past shows.

This time, he portrays three very different characters equally well. Allison Prouty is Bill Slank and Hawking Clam. Melissa Dawson portrays Prentiss with John T. Wyczlinski as Alf, James McGirr as Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and Megan Simpson as Ted. If you go, and you should, bring along a liberal supply of imagination.