New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday

From 46 critic and 165 member reviews
Members say: Disappointing, Great acting, Slow, Ambitious, Quirky

About the show

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. 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.

Stage Buddy

"Take a new play by...Sarah Ruhl, add a cast of seasoned New York actors including the great Kathleen Chalfant, let innovative theater director...Les Waters mix it all up, and you have a triple whammy of terrific theater...Chalfant is captivating; her hopeful performance sprinkles fairy dust to all...With poignancy and touches of alchemy, Mr. Waters’ direction stretched theatrical boundaries beautifully, shaping moments of grief, tenderness and joy along with a skillful use of music." Full Review

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

More Than The Play Blog

“This play is a gift of opportunity to all of us to ponder the occurrences in life that we cannot turn back from…Les Waters directs an amazing ensemble cast…The script gives insight to each of their varied perspectives. It is a tender and intimate story…Each member of the cast builds distinctive characters who unite during this solemn occasion to face the challenges and the changes ahead…It is Sarah Ruhl’s most personal play, and is touching on many levels.” Full Review

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

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

Epoch Times

“Fashioned out of love, remembrance, and Ruhl’s imagination, the play unfolds to tell us a story about family and mortality…Director Les Waters has done a terrific job of coordinating all the elements…The mix of reality and fantasy is ultimately charming and moving. What may have seemed light becomes layered with thoughts of mortality and questions of how one is to live one’s life: How can one be useful? Is one person more important than another?” Full Review

Edge New York

"Ruhl's plays rarely disappoint. Her newest is no exception...The range runs wildly from humorous recollections, to long held resentments, to confusions about their parents. This is the stuff of every family, but it is done well and we believe every speech, and the actors are so suited to their characters that it is as if we are eavesdropping on an actual family...This play is well imagined and helmed by director Les Waters...Ruhl mixes an excellent concoction." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“Death and youth are common themes to work with, and Ruhl handles them with expert ease...The cast is phenomenal, but standout performances by Chalfant and Chandler give the show heart and humor…Les Waters’ direction hits home most of the time, though a few moments drag on. I’m all for a pregnant pause, but don’t put me to sleep…If you’re a fan of Peter Pan, you’ll enjoy this show. If not, you’ll still enjoy this show. But either way, you can’t deny the profound message it elicits." Full Review

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

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

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

New York Magazine / Vulture

"What had happened between an inspired idea and a production that left me more frustrated than inspired?...It comes down to two things: design and politics...Ruhl revels in the world of fancy, but this production’s visuals leave little to the imagination...The play’s engagement with politics feels preemptively dated...Ruhl’s play is standing right on the edge of something quite marvelous and mournful, but at times it feels just a little too afraid of its own shadow." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“It's small talk, mostly, but it's lovely…And the actors are all wonderful, led by Chalfant's contemplative yet drama-loving Ann…We like this bunch, and we're glad to be with them. Until Ruhl goes somewhere else…It's a third act of sorts, a replaying of 'Peter Pan' heavy with Barrie dialogue, meant to evoke, the intermingling of our fantasy and real lives…Whatever it is, it feels tacked-on…Worth seeing, this latest Ruhl? Two-thirds of it, yes.” Full Review

Broadway Blog

“‘For Peter Pan’ 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

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

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

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


"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

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

The Wrap

“Promising but underwritten…Even at 90 minutes, Ruhl’s play is a very long sit. Under the direction of Les Waters, the production has some lovely well-observed moments, but no real propulsive drive. The siblings emerge less as characters than as mouthpieces for slightly different stances on politics or the value of religion…Ruhl has sketched the broad outlines of characters here, gathering a handful of ideas and themes that are still in need of a structure to bind them in place." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Ultimately proves the rare miss for Ruhl...Even her misfires are noteworthy...Here the drama has been eliminated altogether. Argument stands in for conflict; the idea, not the play, is the thing...Having foregone individuation, however, 'For Peter Pan' feels more like a Sarah Ruhl parody than a Sarah Ruhl play...The play floats along on the surface, safe and sane and totally harmless...The staging and delivery choices are mechanical and workaday, leaving the fine flounder." Full Review

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


"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


“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

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

Delightful, Great staging, Fluffy, Poignant

See it if You like Sarah Ruhl's work, you enjoy the classic Peter Pan story, you like quiet beautiful work.

Don't see it if You have no frame of reference for Peter Pan beyond the Disney movie, you need a lot of plot action, reality breaks bother you.

Delightful, Great writing, Intelligent, Resonant, Unique

See it if you like plays about family relationships, but with a positive spin.

Don't see it if you don't like theater that's a little unexpected.

Also Sarah Ruhl brings us a lovely play about siblings dealing with their f... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Funny, Delightful

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.

Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if You want a play which is touching on many levels and deals with real issues with both humor and pathos, enjoy a wonderful acting ensemble.

Don't see it if You need a traditionally linear play, don't like flights of fancy mixed with serious drama, have little imagination, are immune to delight.

Clever, Ambitious, Cliched, Thought-provoking, Deliberately disturbing

See it if You're a fan of Sarah Ruhl & the great Kathleen Chalfant, like plays that bring up disturbing topics like aging & death in creative ways

Don't see it if You don't want to have death and illness thrust in your face--even with humor, don't like clever fantasy scenes or family sagas with death

Clever, Delightful, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if you want to see a reflection of a real family and a specific yet universal story.

Don't see it if you want a lot of plot because this is mostly driven by emotion

Great writing, Clever, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

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.

Great acting, Resonant, Quirky, Confusing, Funny

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.

Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Great writing, Resonant

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

Disappointing, What-was-that-about?, Ambitious, Confusing, Intense

See it if You like Kathleen Chalfant and would go to see her read the phone book.

Don't see it if You love Peter Pan, and have any expectations of a Pan-like theater experience.

Also The promotional info for this show made it sound charming and engaging... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Profound, Intelligent

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.

Clever, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Innovative, Great acting

See it if You love to see pros on stage do their thing, and you like to be challenged a bit by the material

Don't see it if Fantasy ideas turn you off

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if You are as much a Sarah Ruhl fan as I. Great writing, wonderful performances (esp. Chalfant) - reflective of aging, death and growing up.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy quirkiness

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Ambitious, 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

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

Great acting, Ambitious, Clever, Quirky

See it if I like her plays and after review had low expectations but enjoyed good dialogue

Don't see it if like a good ending the last part of the play was the weakest

Dated, Slow, Intense, Clever, Delightful

See it if - You're dealing with grief. - You are older than 25. - You love the story of Peter Pan.

Don't see it if - You're looking for minority voices. - You're looking for a youthful perspective. - You don't get the hype behind Peter Pan.

Clever, Confusing, Ambitious, Great acting, Indulgent

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.

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

Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging, Slow

See it if you love Kathleen Chalfant

Don't see it if you want a clearly focused meditation on its principal themes, ie aging and death. Toys with significance but never gets there

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Refreshing

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.

Disappointing, Great acting, Insipid, Ambitious

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

Delightful, Quirky, Thought-provoking, Banal, Uneven

See it if If you're a fan of Sarah Ruehl and/or Kathleen Chalfant, and like quirky scripts with a homespun glow.

Don't see it if If you are expecting linear drama with a clear throughline or any strong message. And if you don't like "quirky" plays

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Ambitious, Thought-provoking

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

Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if You never wanted to grow up or grow old, but you did anyway at least the grow old part.

Don't see it if You're aging and you just see no point in discussing it, specially not with your brothers and sisters. Or you like plays with plots .

Also A whimsical rumination on what is to be an adult, lose a parent, grow ... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (14)