The Western Stage presents Sarah Ruhl’s “For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday”, a tale both touching and surreal, where the refusal to grow up confronts the inevitability of growing old. In the wake of their father’s death, five siblings in their golden years reconnect with childhood dreams between family slice-of-life comedy and a Neverland fantasia.
Ghosts, pets and arguments without resolutions surround the kitchen table free-for-all, complete with Chex party mix and many tumblers of Jameson, during which the siblings mourn the loss of their father while questioning their own mortality. After a brief prologue in which the oldest, Ann, appears to talk to the audience about playing Peter Pan at the Davenport Children’s Theater many years earlier, Ruhl throws us directly into a hospital vigil, as the siblings wait out their father’s final hours. Between the sounds of beeping monitors and television commercials, the characters reveal themselves through a series of ethical and philosophical squabbles. In a subsequent kitchen table scene, the siblings reminisce about their parents, contentiously voice their political views (conservatives and liberals inhabit this family) and discuss ideas of faith. And their father is there too – if only they could see him – along with their long-dead family dog. Even though this ghost sometimes makes noises, often with comical results for the audience, Ruhl evokes a deeper notion of a spiritual world and how an afterlife is created when we think of those who have died. In Act III the siblings inhabit a Neverland of sorts, as aging adults with less-than-limber joints and childlike wonder.
Using Peter Pan as a metaphor for growing up, Ruhl concocts her own spin on this familiar device with a mixture of family drama and surrealism. It’s a perfect example of what she, in her book “100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write” calls the “Ovidian Form:” Magic is everywhere, stories don’t have arcs, and nobody learns a lesson. The theater, she argues, should be more akin to poetry and pageantry than (as she sometimes despairs) legalistic argumentation. The work represents a deeply personal effort by the author of such acclaimed plays as “The Clean House”, “Eurydice”, and “In the Next Room, (Or the Vibrator Play)”. The central character, Ann, is directly inspired by Ruhl’s mother, who played Peter Pan as a teenager while growing up in Davenport, Iowa. Around her mother’s 70th birthday, Ruhl was reflecting on aging and her mother’s fear of death and thought that the metaphor of Peter Pan would be an interesting way to write a play for her. Her writing also gives voice to a binding love between siblings that overcomes conflicting beliefs.
Cast list: Suzanne Sturn (Ann), Mindy Pedlar (Wendy), Ron Genauer (Michael), Carl Twisselman (Jim), Fred Herro (John), Tom Hepner (Father)
The Western Stage’s production is directed by Nina Capriola and Jeffrey T. Heyer; set design by David Parker; costume design by Sanja Manakoski; lighting design by Theodore Michael Dolas; sound design by Ari Murillo; and hair and makeup design by Maegan Roux.
From the Director (Jeffrey T. Heyer)
This play invokes current, powerful, personal issues for every member of the cast and directing team and we believe the same will hold true for audience members. Everyone has to deal with the essential problems of life which Sarah Ruhl explores. You may or may not feel that her play presents you with some sort of definitive answers, but speaking for the cast and directors, by the end of the first reading, we all felt better about asking the questions and facing what awaits around some unknown turn of life’s corners.
This event is wheelchair accessible. Individuals requiring other accommodations should contact the Box Office at least one week prior to the event: (831)-755-6816
The Western Stage presents Sarah Ruhl’s “For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday,” a tale both touching and surreal, where the refusal to grow up confronts the inevitability of growing old. In the wake of their father’s death, five siblings in their golden years reconnect with childhood dreams between family slice-of-life comedy and a Neverland fantasia.
WHEN: Sept. 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 (Join us for ReActions on Sunday, September 15!). Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Studio Theater, K116. Hartnell College Performing Arts Center, Building K, 411 Central Ave., Salinas, Calif. 93901.
TICKETS AND INFO: $26 general admission, $24 for seniors and military and $12 for children age 5-15. Hartnell students are free with student I.D. Other students $20 with I.D. or $5 Student Rush (cash only) on day of performance. For single or group tickets and information, go to westernstage.com or call (831)-755-6816 (5-8 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday).