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For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday

Members say: Disappointing, Great acting, Slow, Ambitious, Quirky
66
Critics
58
46 reviews
Members
68
158 reviews
 

Playwrights Horizons presents the New York premiere of Sarah Ruhl's play in which five siblings are driven to reconnect with childhood dreams in the wake of their father’s death.

... Read more

Playing Peter Pan at her hometown children’s theater is one of Ann’s fondest, most formative memories. Now, 50 years later, Neverland calls again, casting her and her siblings back to this faraway dreamscape where the refusal to grow up confronts the inevitability of growing old. Ruhl conjures a tender, yearning tale that flies in the face of time in the search for a second youth.

 

Cast & Creatives (14)



Reviews (204)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
58
Avg Score

35
Time Out New York

“What begins in gauzy dullness—Ruhl mandates that the first two parts ‘should feel almost unperformed,’ and they do—eventually gets hoisted on a clunky apparatus of symbolism about refusing to grow old…The finale trots out familiar stuff about the magic of theater, but no amount of fairy dust and clapping can reanimate a play that never seemed alive to begin with. It’s a waste of the playwright’s gifts, and the audience’s time." Full Review

45
Theatermania

“Ruhl’s story of J.M. Barrie's iconic characters gone to seed is the most moving aspect of 'For Peter Pan,' a play that ultimately gets stuck midway between banal family drama and a surrealistic meditation on aging…No one in this ensemble of actors really captures the recognizable humanity, grief, and ultimate realization needed to translate Ruhl's ideas from stage to audience." Full Review

45
The Hollywood Reporter

"Even the most skilled playwright would have trouble juggling these disparate stylistic elements of confessional monologue, homespun naturalism and fantasy, and despite—or perhaps because of—Ruhl's personal connection to her material, the piece feels hopelessly strained...Chalfant, as always, is superb, mining her role for every bit of humor and emotion. The other members of the ensemble are equally fine...But the cast's efforts are not enough to lift this laborious work." Full Review

40
The New York Times

"Sometimes moving, sometimes baggy play...'For Peter Pan' strikes me as stuck partway between theatrical worlds...Without external conflict, the interactions can seem shapeless, the pacing gelatinous. Making things worse is the unevenness of the performances...If you are aiming for lightness, a leaden, humorless staging will sink you. To fly, a work like 'For Peter Pan' needs a great deal more fairy dust than it gets here." Full Review

55
The Huffington Post

“Ruhl doesn’t quite develop her characters…The whole thing is, indeed, very much like one of the ‘Apple Family Plays’—only without rich layering and the empathy…Chalfant is very good here; she seems to storm determinedly through the action despite any weaknesses, like—well, like Peter Pan. Everyone does a good job, under the direction of frequent Ruhl collaborator Les Waters. But the playwright has not written the play she so earnestly seems to have wished to.” Full Review

70
Theater Life

"The symbolism is pretty heavy and the Never Land segment runs out of steam before it finishes, but Ruhl still paints a heartbreaking and insightful portrait of adult passages. Les Waters skillfully balances the disparate styles. A compassionate cast led by the exquisite Chalfant and Emery establish Ruhl’s duality of detailed naturalism and metaphor-laden dreamscape...'Peter Pan' isn’t bursting with startling new insights...But it’s presented with commitment and compassion." Full Review

45
Lighting & Sound America

"After the father has passed on and an impromptu Irish wake is held, Ruhl's deft ear for dialogue is enough to hold our attention...But Ruhl badly overplays her hand in the jarring final sequence, in which Ann and the others find themselves inside a production of 'Peter Pan'...Compared to what has come before, it plays like bad sketch comedy...By making thuddingly explicit what has been clear all along, a gently touching meditation on mortality gets buried under a pile of self-indulgent shtick." Full Review

65
Front Row Center

"I was hard-pressed to identify with this collection of siblings...Somehow they all remained unconnected to each other or the moment. In my experience, these situations bring out the connected in everyone involved...The play slowly drifts to an end, if not a conclusion...The performances are all quite wonderful...This is a production that you want to like. Everyone is sincere and working hard to bring this text to life. It is the text that is wanting." Full Review

60
Broadway Blog

“‘For Peter Pan’...is sporadically touching and interesting; ultimately, though, it’s structurally ungainly, dramatically meh, and awkwardly resolved…Engaging chitchat in the overheard dialogue tradition best represented by…Nelson’s Apple family plays…Regardless of its charms, well-honed dialogue, and fine ensemble, ‘For Peter Pan’...depends too much on plotless conversation and theatrical smoke and mirrors. It could use some of that fairy dust that Peter…sprinkles about.” Full Review

45
The Clyde Fitch Report

“The first part...is close to perfect...In parts two and three, Ruhl’s major thematic intentions are introduced and reiterated...Ruhl slowly loses her once-firm grip…Ruhl’s caper, though, is ultimately uneven and immature. For one thing, the demands put on the actors for pretending to be children are unfair. If premier actors like Chalfant, Emery, Reddin and Jenkins can’t bring this assignment off, then no one could.” Full Review

45
CurtainUp

"This one-act meditation on aging and dying never escapes feeling like watching someone else's home movies...The fantastical finale is totally predictable...Theatrically speaking this basically plotless piece never really soars to the level of Ruhl's better work...While that final recreation of the famous Barrie bedroom scene is more lively and fun than what went on before, the flying is decidedly low-key and limited...not the strong play these fine actors deserve." Full Review

85
Front Mezz Junkies

“Ruhl’s bravery in exploring the landscape of this dysfunctional family without judgment and finding the love that binds them together is beautiful to behold…The director, Les Walters, did an amazing job of creating a true family dynamic and I thought he helped create a world underneath the words so vibrantly. Even in the silences, I was drawn into the play…As both Wendys, Lisa Emery is marvelous...Kathleen Chalfant, naturally, is superb as Ann/Peter Pan." Full Review

49
TheaterScene.net

“What this all means is something only Ms. Ruhl knows as the entire dramatic configuration of the play is baffling and sluggish at 90 minutes. We go from a drawn-out dying sequence to a typical brothers and sisters clash that’s all adequately rendered at best. The rehash of J.M. Barrie’s characters is certainly whimsical but doesn’t really parallel the lives of the characters and makes no real impact...There are some lovely moments in 'For Peter Pan' but as a whole it’s stillborn.” Full Review

50
Gotham Playgoer

“I decided to take a chance on it. Big mistake…The excruciating death scene seemed interminable, even without the long pauses that director Les Waters has inserted…There’s a well-staged sword fight and some neat flying. The acting is strong…Since the play clearly has deep personal meaning for Ruhl and was written as a gift to her mother, who actually played Peter Pan in her youth, it pains me to be so negative about it. Nevertheless, at no point did the play really engage me." Full Review

40
CitiTour

“When this story of five siblings sticks to its interpersonal dynamics, it is at its most believable and engaging. But sadly, not even a first-rate troupe of players, led by the always magnificent Kathleen Chalfant…can get this muddled play off the ground. At 90 minutes, the play feels simultaneously overstuffed and overlong, helped none by Les Waters’ often sluggish direction...The final reenactment of a scene from ‘Peter Pan’ borders on the ridiculous.” Full Review

80
Broadway & Me

"Ruhl's warmhearted meditation on mortality really hit my sweet spot...Waters has assembled a top-notch cast to spin this tale...This production had me from the moment I learned that Ann would be played by Kathleen Chalfant, an actor who seems incapable of giving less than a brilliant performance. Here she soars again...Ruhl's wry humor keeps 'For Peter Pan' from being depressing. Instead it's a reminder that the best way to face death may be with a defiant smile." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"The dialogue quick, clever and revealing, touching on religion, bureaucracy, politics and the all too familiar waiting for someone to die. Expect many a chuckle...It takes a while for this play to get going, but once it does, it fulfills many emotions in oh so tender moments of love and honesty, addressing our mutual humanity. The cast is lovable and loving." Full Review

80
Act Three - The Reviews

“A tender, touching new play…‘For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday’ is a story about death and dying, family, different political opinions, and growing up. Tie in a memory of ‘Peter Pan’ and you have quite a nice evening in the theatre…A generally entertaining, tender, down-to-earth play with just a dash of fun and a healthy dose of heart.” Full Review

55
DC Metro Theater Arts

"It feels like a first work, a crude attempt by a promising playwright to 'write what you know'...The problem is, as Ruhl writes them, the siblings have no particular distinction...The play is all small talk–expository and personal–not only about them, but other relatives as well...The five siblings and their Dad are well played by a lively cast led by the appealing Kathleen Chalfant, who always lights up a stage." Full Review

60
Manhattan Digest

"Loaded with some profound and touching ideas. It is also graced with the indefatigable presence of its star, Kathleen Chalfant...The stakes however, never seem that high and Ruhl’s play tends to meander between recollections, current affairs, ordinary sibling rivalry, and regret...It ends up feeling like a cathartic self-help exercise...In the final analysis, 'For Peter Pan' has some tender moments but, overall, it fails to take flight." Full Review

55
WNYC

"It's gentle and generous, without much conflict...There's almost no dramatic arc, and there's almost no emotional arc either...Despite these significant drawbacks, 'For Peter Pan' is interesting in an experimental-theater kind of way. It's rare to see an accomplished playwright deviate so drastically from dramatic structure. It's imaginative...There is tender and affecting dialogue...But ironically, it is the most fantastical elements that keep this 'Peter Pan' firmly on the ground." Full Review

40
Off Off Online

"The actors, with impeccable credentials, adhere to the script’s directive to make the first third feel 'unperformed.' Alas, 'aimless' might be a better description. One wishes that director Les Waters or the producers had helped curb Ruhl’s impulse...Occasionally the jumble of events yields a moment of interest...Despite the mercenary theft from 'Peter Pan' to engage the audience, one is more likely to be struck by disbelief at the tedious flummery on stage." Full Review

40
Daily Beast

"One of the play’s biggest weaknesses is one of its central reasons of being: Ruhl has said she wanted to see if she could craft a family drama without it hinging on 'mudslinging and skeletons in the closet.' On stage, sadly, this faithfulness to the love and cadences of her own family is a little listless to watch in a fictional one...Without any overt tensions the plot fizzles...The performers...skillfully segue from real world to Pan-world; the writing, tonally, is more discordant." Full Review

55
Village Voice

"It rarely rings false, and it never stumbles over misguided grandiose ambitions. Its main flaw is that, simply, it isn’t very interesting...The harmless sincerity of this schema can be respected, but Ruhl does very little to delve into the complexities that presumably underlie it...It all seems accurate enough; it just never seems enough...Ruhl’s script has understandably not given director Les Waters much inspiration...The acting is all good." Full Review

50
scribicide

"Ms. Ruhl fails to embrace the darkness of her central conceit. What Peter Pan has to say about the terror of growing up, about Oedipal struggles, lost innocence, and looming mortality should provide rich material here. These tragic elements were not lost on Barrie's original children, who eventually outgrew and left him, with one recounting that he pretended to continue believing in fairies only to appease his older friend. And yet Ms. Ruhl remains gratuitously optimistic." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
68
Avg Score

81
Clever, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Great writing

See it if you enjoy a biographical story with a powerful narrative about aging

Don't see it if you prefer a more fluffy interpretation and true peter pan relevance.

66
Ambitious, Great acting, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you wanted to see a talented ensemble dealing with a family drama.

Don't see it if you didn't realize what a heartbreaking family play this is (the advertising was very deceptive). The "Follies" like climax moved me.

59
Quirky, Cliched, Slow

See it if you are a fan of family dramas. A family comes together over tragedy & fights/reminisces. The first half was ok, then the fantasy starts

Don't see it if you are just looking for the Peter Pan aspect. That section is only about 20 minutes long. This show was maybe marketed incorrectly...?

88
Funny, Delightful, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if you appreciate shows that discuss aging, politics and keeping your spirit young.

Don't see it if you want to laugh all the time. This explores letting go of those we love.

80
Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you're a fan of Sarah Ruhl or Peter Pan! This play is so refreshing while being nostalgic and profound at the same time. Bring tissues!

Don't see it if You don't like theatre that breaks the 4th wall, Sarah Ruhl, stories about death

71
Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if You're up for a low key but funny meditation on aging & mortality, the terrific cast creating a real family with deceptive ease.

Don't see it if You're impatient or looking for fluff, music or a snappy pace, don't like fantasy in any form, or plays where dialogue is all.

Also There's a lot of good in this play: much wit and some touching moments... Read more Read less

50
Great acting, Banal, Excruciating, Cliched, Overrated

See it if you love any of the actors in the piece, especially Chalfant, or you are interested in stories of family dynamics across time

Don't see it if you are interested in a play that has a meaningful/new message or one that is particularly well-written/paced.

72
Ambitious, Great acting, Disappointing, Insipid

See it if you want to see Kathleen Chalfant fly as Peter Pan and excellent acting by Lisa Emery

Don't see it if you want to see a fast moving well written play

70
Ambitious, Great acting, Slow

See it if you like plays that focus on aging and mortality, you enjoy quirky surrealism in the last act or a playwright's tribute to her mother

Don't see it if death is a touchy subject for you (the deathbed scenes are very true to life). Second act is slow and boring and weakest part.

74
Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if you enjoy the clever and often offbeat ways that Sarah Ruhl frames her plays. Definitely worth seeing for the cast - they are exceptional.

Don't see it if you want events and scenes to play out literally. There are lots of metaphors, overlapping worlds, and sometimes confusing leaps of faith.

65
Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Indulgent, Disappointing

See it if Fantasy oriented family drama. Well intentioned, but misses on many levels

Don't see it if like a concise story that mixes whimsy and drama successfully

56
Depressing, Dizzying, Confusing, Disappointing, Slow

See it if You want to see a wonderful childhood story with most of the magic taken out. You can sit through an excruciating long death bed scene.

Don't see it if You want your childhood memories of Peter Pan to remain intact. You don't want to struggle to put the pieces of a disjointed story together.

81
Funny, Great acting, Quirky, Resonant, Confusing

See it if You enjoy dining-room family dramedies, but ones that have a bit of quirkiness to them.

Don't see it if You can't sit through another play about the death of a parent, even if it's relatively lighthearted.

73
Clever, Delightful, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if A touching play about siblings returning to their childhood fantasies. Lovely ensemble acting.

Don't see it if If you prefer musicals or light dramas.

30
Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow

See it if Want to spend 20 minutes wishing a character would die. Sorry they weren't dead when the play began so we could get on with it.

Don't see it if You are a fan of Chalfant. She's terribly miscast in a badly written part in a poorly written play Nesver believed she wanted to be Peter.

Also Boring first scene. Boring second scene. Messy 3rd scene. Interesting ... Read more Read less

64
Intelligent, Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you like family dramas and don't mind themes of aging and mortality.

Don't see it if you prefer action or "easy" shows that don't require much brain power. The dialogue is sometimes complex and scenes are disjointed.

34
Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if You want to see a dull under developed uncooked play. You have to see all of Sarah Ruel's plays. Good or bad

Don't see it if You have no Patience for theatre companies producing plays by famous playwrights even if a play isnt ready

40
Pointless, Quirky, Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow

See it if only if you are intent on seeing every work written by Sarah Ruhl.

Don't see it if you expect interesting characters, dialogue and situations or if you want a play that really has something to say about Peter Pan.

78
Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if If willing to build some bridges between 3 very disparate sections of a play, love Kathleen Chalfant, are interested in talk of afterlife.

Don't see it if Combining realistic family drama a la Apple plays and whimsical fantasy with heavy symbolism is not your thing, or prefer your theater light

Also I appreciate the ambitious attempt Ruhl makes to distinguish between g... Read more Read less

77
Ambitious, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if You're a fan of Sarah Ruhl or Kathleen Chalfant or both. You can handle a mix of profound reality and crazy fantasy.

Don't see it if You need straight forward pieces that are easy to understand and dissect. You don't want to hear political debate or are disturbed by dying

Also This is 90 minutes in basically 2 acts : first we see a family over th... Read more Read less

63
Quirky, Slow, Silly

See it if you are interested in unusual ways to re-visit Peter Pan and do not mind the lack of story line.

Don't see it if you want a strong story and well-developed characters and do not particularly care about Peter Pan.

60
Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated

See it if You want to see something that should be ALOT better. Sarah Ruhl, really??? You would think she could do better.

Don't see it if You have to pay full price.

62
Ambitious, Disappointing, Cliched, Slow, Doesn't hang together

See it if You are loyal to Playwrights and/or a fan of Ruhl, this playwright. You like family dramedy, political banter, or existential pondering.

Don't see it if You are looking for a lively night at the theatre -- this show drags and doesn't really deliver.

74
Great acting, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you love Kathleen Chalfont. She is AMAZING and worth sitting through 90 pointless minutes just to watch her act! Set is interesting.

Don't see it if you were looking for something meaningful or fun.It's an ok play, but very slow. Which is perfect in the hospital room scenes, but otherwise

80
Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound, Resonant

See it if You like plays that focus on feelings that come up later in life. This play made me think a lot about my family. The loves and the losses.

Don't see it if If you want to see an "Uplifting"play without flying gear.