04/25/2012 10:29 am ET Updated Jun 25, 2012

Peter and the Starcatcher : Splash in the Pan

The two halves of Peter and the Starcatcher are so radically different in tone and message that it's as if you're seeing two different plays pushed together as one. The first act had a loose and complicated plot that leaves you a bit uneasy at the intermission. It's set on some dark ships that seem to be carrying nothing more than a set of mischievous characters up to no good. When the second act opens, the mayhem continues with a much sunnier outlook ahead. In spite of a still-ripening plot and uncertainty about where exactly directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers are taking you, the audience jumps aboard wholeheartedly and trusts the captain to guide them home.

At its simplest, this play is a prequel to the Peter Pan story. With Dave Barry as a co-writer of the book this play is based on, it's no wonder that the pirates, savages and other guys up to no good play for laughs ahead of intimidation. Fans of Peter Pan will recognize and remember small plot points that lend themselves to the familiar story, like all sequels do. What's different and exciting about this show is how lightly it takes itself. Everyone's self-awareness and frequent modern cultural references lead the hysterics. And it targets both young and old audiences with Kelis lyrics and Ayn Rand jokes.

The most notable entertainer in the case is Christopher Borle who, in the main role of Black Stache, turns a villain into a champion. As he squares off with his opposition -- the Boy (Adam Chanler-Berat) and Molly (Celia Keenan-Bolger) -- Borle nary misses a chance for some good old-fashioned physical comedy. He proudly strides around the stage giving off a certain sense of false machismo that conveys both his ambition and his aloofness. Much of the time his lines are directed at the audience with a wink and a nod, or more appropriately an over-the-top sinister sneer.

If the humor is the selling point for this show, it's the staging that keeps you glued to it. It's hard to believe how much can be done by a 12-person cast, especially considering how fast the show moves. Just when you think the stage is empty, a character appears from behind a stool. As one scene winds down, another winds up to take its place. There isn't a moment to pause and consider the characters' intentions or to speculate where they might be headed. They share their thoughts and fears directly with us.

The props are similarly used to perfection. You'll be amazed by how many objects the cast can use a rope to mimic. Umbrellas and plungers serve as weapons. A yellow rubber glove fills in as a bird. The directors want your imagination to take hold of you. Only then can Neverland begin to exist.