Recommended *** If you were a successful playwright, would you write a play as a birthday present for your mother? Sarah Ruhl actually did that, gifting her mother, Kathleen Ruhl, with “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday”. Now, Kathleen Ruhl and Shattered Globe Theatre are sharing that unique gift with Chicago audiences at Theater Wit. “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday is a poignant tale of family love and loss. 3 ½ Spotlights
In a short prologue, Ann (Kathleen Ruhl) shares her favorite memory – playing Peter Pan in a school play. She talks about her costume, the jury-rigged flying apparatus and her joy at actually ‘flying’ around the stage.
Ann and her siblings, Michael (Patrick Thornton), John (H.B. Ward), Jim (Ben Werling) and Wendy (Eileen Niccolai), are gathered in their dying father’s hospital room. While George (Doug McDade) is sleeping, they spend the time quietly talking, reading, working a crossword puzzle, pacing, watching a football game on TV. Whenever Dad groans, they rush to the bedside. Two of the brothers who are doctors are frustrated because there’s nothing they can do for their father.
Later, the siblings gather around the table, sharing a bottle of whiskey in a kind of Irish wake. Dad’s spirit wonders in – unnoticed – and sits down to read the paper. He leaves the room; when the toilet flushes they all look up in surprise, but write it off. They are even more startled when something is said about Tinkerbell, and Dad’s spoon tinkles against his glass. Dad carries in the family dog, Ophelia Chance Werling, an amazingly well-behaved cocker spaniel.
Coincidentally – or not – two of her brothers are named John and Michael, while her sister’s name is Wendy. At any rate, after opening an old trunk, John dons a pair of glasses and a top hat over his nightshirt. Carrying his teddy bear, Michael is wearing long-john style pajamas, while Wendy is in her nightgown.
With scenes of an island somewhere projected on a sheet hanging at the back of the stage, the sibs fight a duel with Captain Hook/Jim. Flying proves to be impossible for Ann, but the trunk becomes a flying ship, if only in their imaginations.
Shattered Globe’s production of “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” runs through May 20th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago. Running time is 1 hour, 20 minutes, no intermission. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 3:00 pm. Tickets range from $28-$35. Valet parking is available. FYI (773) 770-0333 or www.theaterwit.org.
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Many years ago, I was employed by a Chicago businessman, George Beslow ( no relation). George was in the printing business and then took over a small, local, independent yellow page directory firm, National Suburban, which later was sold to Sprint. George’s family was Peter (his first born), Wendy (second in line) followed by John and then Michael. Everyone knew that George was indeed in love with the concept of “Peter Pan” (as are many) and he was a very decent man who loved the local Theater-Scene (a major benefactor with his college room-mate, Mr. Krause for Victory Gardens).