Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday. It was by Sarah Ruhl, and it was directed by Jessica Thebus. It was about a group of siblings--Ann (Kathleen Ruhl), Wendy (Eileen Niccolai), Michael (Patrick Thornton), John (H.B. Ward), and Jim (Ben Werling)--whose father (Doug McDade) was dying. They are reflecting on how easy it was when they were kids, and then they all went back to the days when they were little and pretending to be in Peter Pan. It is about family, not wanting to grow up, and reflection. This is such a moving play and it is funny too. I thought it was great.
The first main section is in a hospital room. They are all there waiting for their father to die. They are all at different levels of dread and do different things to kind of calm themselves. Ann is doing a crossword puzzle; the guys want to watch football; Wendy kind of wants to pamper her dad--she is massaging his feet. They are all trying to be calm and they are all trying to make the best out of the situation. I think when a person dies they would never say, "Everyone should be sad for years." That's why I think it is okay for people to be trying to make the best out of the situation like people in this show are doing. They want their dad to die happy, but you can't really tell if that happens, which is kind of a sad thing to think about.
The second section of the play takes place at the family house. They are all sitting around telling jokes as part of celebrating their dad. And they are also getting pretty tipsy while they are at it. And their father as a ghost keeps walking into the room and his children can't see him. And he is just going about his day: making his Metamucil, eating a grapefruit, and petting his adorable dog. (I think that dog should win a Jeff for most adorable dog in a play.) When they say "Dad, if you are here, give us a sign," he knocks the lid off a tin. And everybody is like "Well, that was weird," but they don't really pay much attention. I thought that was interesting because they didn't have this big discovery: ghosts are real! Instead they just go back to their conversation. Wendy believes very strongly in a higher power. And Ann is the opposite of that. Everybody else is kind of on the fence about it, and they get into a heated discussion about why they do or don't believe in a higher power. I think that was very interesting to watch because they had all different opinions even though they were part of the same family. I kind of want to hear a podcast with all of them because I thought all their opinions were interesting.
People who would like this show are people who like Peter Pan, moving stories, and adorable dogs. I think people should go see this show. It is such a different and interestingly beautiful play.
Photos: Michael Brosilow