Griffinn Gowers of Lebanon and Anique Mercier of Toronto may not be 13 anymore, but they perfectly fit the characters of the 13-year-olds, Peter Pan and Molly, in “Peter and the Starcatcher” opening Aug. 14 at Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick. COURTESY PHOTO

BERWICK – Some pretty perfect casting was involved in filling the lead roles for “Peter and the Starcatcher” opening next week at Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick.

Griffinn Gower, 17, of Lebanon, recalls when he was Peter Pan’s age, 13, he was just like Peter. Anique Mercier, 22, says that she is so much like Molly, she almost wonders how Molly could have existed in Victorian England, when the story took place.

“Molly is me at 13, a total know-it-all, but in an endearing way I hope,” said Mercier, a native of Toronto who is studying at the Boston Conservatory.

“Peter is the most mischievous and troublemaking kid as I was at 13,” Gower said. “He’s kind of a know-it-all too, but actually doesn’t know anything.”

“Peter and the Starcatcher,” an add-on to the century-old story of Peter Pan, is actually a prequel  to the well-known story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Based on a novel co-written by humor writer Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the show appeals to grown-ups as much as youngsters, said Crystal Lisbon, director.

“It’s an ensemble piece that’s fun for actors and fun for the audience,” Lisbon said. “There’s a ton of imagination in the script, and jokes for kids and  grown-ups alike, which makes it perfect family fair.”

In “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the last of Hackmatack’s summer season, a dozen actors portray a vast number of characters, including orphans and pirates, mermaids and tyrants. It follows an orphan and his mates who are set to be shipped off from Victorian England to an island ruled by an evil king, and it explores greed and despair, friendship, duty and love.

At sea, the boys are discovered by a precocious young girl named Molly, a Starcatcher-in-training who realizes that a trunk in the captain’s cabin holds a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands.

Mercier  particularly likes that Molly, the only female in the show, has a kind of spunk that might not have worked so well back more than a century ago.

“I always say that if I was living in Victorian England, I would have trouble,” said Mercier, whose character is hands-down the smartest character in the show. “I don’t ever keep my mouth shut,” she said.

Mercier and Gower have an energy that is convincing and captivating as they capture the childlike spirit of Molly and Peter Pan, according to Lisbon.

“They both have a naturalistic and energetic quality that is great for this show,” Lisbon said. “There is an effortlessness, innocence, and spirit to their acting, which is so necessary when playing these characters.”

For all audience members who want to recapture the spirit of their childhood, or who are still children, theater owner Michael Guptill is offering a free hot dog and hamburger barbecue before the shows to anyone who dresses up in costume. There’s the twist, adults must come as Peter Pan and kids as pirates.

“We just want folks to come and have a good time,” Guptill said. “Whether young or old, bring your family and spend a night with us in Never Never Land.”

Peter and the Starcatcher” will be at the Hackmatack Playhouse from Aug. 14 to 31 on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with additional Thursday matinees at 2 pm. Tickets and information are available at 698-1807 or www.hackmatack.org.

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