Closed 1h 30m
For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday
Midtown W
68

For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday NYC Reviews and Tickets

68%
(165 Reviews)
Positive
49%
Mixed
42%
Negative
9%
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.

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Member Reviews (165)

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84
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

81
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.

Critic Reviews (46)

September 13th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

“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."
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September 14th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

“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."
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September 14th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

“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.”
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September 13th, 2017

“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.”
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September 13th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

"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."
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September 17th, 2017

"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."
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September 18th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

“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."
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September 19th, 2017

"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 ensemble...to flounder."
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September 13th, 2017

“‘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.”
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C
September 13th, 2017

“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.”
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September 13th, 2017

“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.”
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September 13th, 2017

“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."
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September 13th, 2017

“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.”
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T
September 29th, 2017

"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."
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September 16th, 2017

"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."
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September 15th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

"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."
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September 14th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

"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."
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September 14th, 2017

"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."
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W
September 16th, 2017

"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."
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September 13th, 2017

“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.”
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September 13th, 2017

“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."
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September 21st, 2017

"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."
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September 19th, 2017

“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?”
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September 15th, 2017

"The idea...certainly has promise, but Ruhl bludgeons it to a premature death with countless side trips into forced whimsy and heavy-handed dialogue...Ruhl’s play meanders both obviously and pointlessly...What’s disheartening is that Waters directs persuasively, the sets are beguiling, the lighting is often dazzling, and the costumes are amusing. Fully on board is the entire cast...But nothing can disguise that 'For Peter Pan' is all dressed up with no place to fly."
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September 13th, 2017

“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.”
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September 14th, 2017

"Collapses almost from the very beginning...After a while all of the talk becomes unnecessary babble leading nowhere. We really learn nothing about the family...Suddenly the play takes a new detour and we are in Neverland. Here things go completely off-kilter and become quite foolish...Despite the smooth direction and the dedicated performances, the play remains stagnant, never shedding new light on much."
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September 14th, 2017

"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."
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September 20th, 2017

"No amount of pixie dust can make this emotionally laden 'Peter Pan' take flight...The obviously gifted Ruhl overloads her quiver with tried-and-true tropes and takes aim at society’s everyday foibles, the structure of family, all the stages of death and dying, and the truths of how we can be our own worst enemies, but she ends up missing all the marks by half...At times a tedious mix of misfires and missed opportunities and yet at others one can almost see the distant shores of Neverland."
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September 13th, 2017

“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."
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May 29th, 2016
For a previous production

"An intriguing if uneven new work from Sarah Ruhl. Tenderly directed by her longtime collaborator Les Waters, ‘Peter’ is a surreal 90-minute reverie that’s wistful, beautiful and perplexing, not unlike life…And yet ‘Peter’ never quite takes wing theatrically. To be sure, it’s only because Ruhl is such a genius that ‘Pan’ disappoints…All of the actors deliver nuanced turns, but Chalfant dusts this production with fairy magic…For all its fanciful charms, however, the piece remains confounding."
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S
May 28th, 2016
For a previous production

“‘For Peter Pan’ never lives up to its potential, and the journey Ruhl charts from the hospital room to Neverland is more of a slog...Throughout all this, Ruhl injects enough stage magic into the proceedings to establish the possibility for one of her wondrous transitions out of the banal and into the otherworldly…Yet Ruhl splices in those tropes arbitrarily, lazily — as if the fact that the metaphor is obvious means she needn’t give it shape.”
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K
April 7th, 2016
For a previous production

“In what feels like the strongest of the play's three scenes, the siblings ruminate on death, the afterlife, and what it means to really be an adult...The remaining two scenes are less impressive…Chalfant leads a strong cast as a sympathetic and engaging Ann…Les Waters directs with a sure eye for both the comedy and drama in the script, but even so ‘For Peter Pan’ is a bit too specifically autobiographical for its own good. It feels less like a play for a general audience than a home video.”
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May 31st, 2016
For a previous production

“The magic in this play is all in that fantastical morphing, which shimmers in its quiet way, infusing the play with lightness and warmth. The catch is you have to wait until the last third to get there…Characters mouth platitudes so implausibly hackneyed that the audience is left wondering whether they were delivered ironically…The third scene is higher energy…Tender and poignant at times, Ruhl gently probes our take on the illusions of growing up, acting, and gender.”
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March 11th, 2016
For a previous production

“There is an intrinsic lyricism to Ruhl’s ideas as well as her language in this work…Chalfant as Ann and Peter Pan utterly compels and charms…The rest of the cast aptly provides respectable performances…Waters' direction also holds very tender moments…Waters – who also has a history of wily exploits that sometimes excel – fulfills his reputation here by including a small marching band. Instead of adding illumination, however, the move disrupts the story and mood."
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April 4th, 2016
For a previous production

“Oh Ms. Ruhl…Why in perhaps your most personal play to date, do you exchange intellect for cliché and fantasy for silliness?...We can’t help but feel like we we’ve been watching a panto holiday extravaganza rather than one of Ruhl’s deeply meaningful mythic meditations…It’s as though this childishness got the better of Ruhl here, dumbing down potentially intriguing discussion into obvious sound bites and belaboring the fantastical into mere antics.”
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May 5th, 2016
For a previous production

“All this sounds rather depressing but, being a Sarah Ruhl play, is delivered with humor, compassion and cleverness…An enjoyable and engrossing 90 minutes of theater, moving the audience swiftly along its trajectory of grief until it, quite literally, soars through the air…Waters works his theatrical magic again here, bringing out not only the best in the play, but in his excellent ensemble of actors.”
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May 28th, 2016
For a previous production

“Chalfant is a deeply empathetic actor who commands the stage…Though not a revolutionary idea, the execution and admittedly hokey stage magic make the final moments of the play especially moving, endearing, and even transcendent…It's just quirky, original, and redemptive enough to stand out among contemporary theater, and while the issues it deals with are heavy, it arrives at a lightness that some might say is too literal, but I'll just say left a lasting smile on my face.”
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March 17th, 2016
For a previous production

“In her script, Ruhl expertly weaves heavy topics with elements of childhood whimsy to touching effect…Some elements, however, were cumbersome...Waters' knack for the darkly fanciful elevates Ruhl’s script. Add in the tenderly performed roles of the siblings (Scott Jaeck, Keith Reddin, David Chandler and Lisa Emery — all of whom were standouts), and 'For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday' will be a Humana play with a reach far past Actors Theatre."
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