For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday
By Sarah Ruhl
This play has been on my to-read list for an embarrassingly long time, and I'm so glad one of my students finally gave me the nudge I needed to finish reading it.
For Peter Pan is a three act play that follows five grown siblings as they hold vigil in their dying father's hospital room (in the first act, anyway). He finally does pass at the end of the first act, and the second act takes us back to the family home where the siblings snack and reminisce and argue about politics, all while the ghost of their father putters about, mostly unnoticed by his children. Finally, in the third act, in true Ruhl-ian fashion, the characters transform into Peter Pan and his Neverland crew, where "I won't grow up" crashes head long into the inevitability of age.
I probably should have known better than to read a play that Ruhl wrote as a gift to her mother in a public space, but read it in an airport I did. And there is nothing quite like openly weeping in front of a bunch of strangers. There is so much to love in this gorgeous, loving meditation on family and aging and youth and memory. As I myself age, I read a lot more plays that I am now too old for than I do plays I look forward to growing into, so this was a nice treat as an actor. But in invoking Peter Pan, one of the few truly magical characters of our canon, it is also a love letter to the possibility of theatre to keep us all a little younger and a little more full of wonder.