Posted in aging, family, family comedy drama, Kathleen Chalfant, Peter Pan, Playwrights Horizons, Sarah Ruhl

Growing Up

Wicked BwayRondi Reed
Kathleen Chalfant & Ron Crawford in For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday Photo by Joan Marcus.

There are those who proclaim that “age is just a number” and trill about being “young at heart.”

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie’s enduring and oft-Disney-fied character, is the poster boy for this way of looking at life.

Others find that hitting the BIG 4-0, 5-0, or 6-0 is fraught with crises, both midlife and beyond.

Wicked BwayRondi Reed
Lisa Emery & Kathleen Chalfant. Photo by Joan Marcus

Sarah Ruhl’s new play, in a New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons through October 1st, For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday upends the famous meme of eternal youth that Peter evokes. It is also a tribute and a present to her mother, who like the titular character in Ruhl’s play performed the role in their hometown theater.

Wicked BwayRondi Reed
David Chandler, Daniel Jenkins, Kathleen Chalfant, Lisa Emery & Keith Reddin. Photo by Joan Marcus.


Of course, Peter Pan and the idea of not growing up– or, rather, not becoming a grown up– has appeal for children as well. For adults, the appeal may have something to do with never having to face mortality. This is a conclusion that her brother Jim (David Chandler)  suggests to Ann (Kathleen Chalifant) in For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday .

For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday is a comedy drama about mortality, maturity, and family. It is written in varying rhythms, as if the play itself were a living entity. Under Les Waters’ direction, For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday rolls with a familiarity of shared memories as the siblings, Ann, John (Daniel Jenkins), Michael (Keith Reddin), Jim, Wendy (Lisa Emery) sit at their father’s (Ron Crawford) deathbed.

It is a charming and philosophical play, acted with a spontaneous ease by a cast that seems comfortably to interact as if they were family. There is music (including some original) for which Bray Poor and Charles Coes are responsible and which adds to the appeal of For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday. David Zinn, who has a way with designing homey homes in small settings, delivers a reliable scenic design; Kristopher Castle’s costumes are simple and homey as well. The flying effects are well-timed by ZFX, Inc. Since the story of Peter Pan requires that the family have a dog, a special thanks to Macy for his understated participation in the production.

For more information and tickets, please visit @PHnyc.


Posted in 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominee, A Walk in the Woods, cold war, detente, disarmament, Kathleen Chalfant, Keen Company, Lee Blessing, Paul Niebanck, peace talks, Tony winning play, USSR vs USA

Peace in our time

Peace is elusive. Not the concept of peace. Everyone buys into that. The actual absence of war or threats of war is difficult to find. In part, it’s hard to come by because war and peace are so much about posturing: “How dare they!” “We have to defend our values.”

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in “A Walk in the Woods”
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In Lee Blessing’s vision in “A Walk in the Woods,” at the Keen through October 18th, arms negotiations are a game leading to “Nyet” on one side, and “No” on the other.

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in “A Walk in the Woods”
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Irina Botvinnick (Kathleen Chalfant) understands this. John Honeyman (Paul Niebanck), her naive counterpart from the USA, expects to save the world from itself.

Detente is an old-fashioned word. It melted with the ice of the Cold War. Blessing’s play, ably directed by Keen’s Artistic Director, Jonathon Silverstein, is about people–specifically about two people whose business is politics and whose mission is useless. The two are negotiators for the great and well-armed superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

Chalfant’s Irina is charming as she eggs Honeyman into trivial conversations as they walk and talk in a Geneva park.  The play, which was nominated for both a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, echoes he futility and frustration of arms-race peace talks. It also drags to a point where it loses focus and our interest.

Is “A Walk in the Woods” dated in the post-Cold War era? Much of what it has to say about the unwillingness to scale down and give up weapons rings true. The opponents have changed shape and geography, perhaps. Despite its real-politik plot, however, the play lags. The leads are never anything but compelling to watch, but the outcome is evident and protracted.

The costumes by Amanda Jenks and Jennifer Paar are lively, and provide a nice rhythm to the seasons of the plot.
For more information on “A Walk in the Woods,” and the Keen Company, please visit


Posted in dying, family comedy drama, Greg Keller, Jenny Schwartz, Kate Mulgrew, Kathleen Chalfant, life and death, lurid, Mary Schultz, Vineyard Theatre

Alas, "Somewhere Fun" is Anything But

Dark comedy can be full of surprise and delight.

Unfortunately, Jenny Schwartz’s new “Somewhere Fun,” at the Vineyard Theatre through June 23rd, is dark and sometimes comic, but absent of any delight. A metaphor for life and death that’s so lurid and off-putting, “Somewhere Fun” threatens to bore. Its descent into dull darkness has a rapid trajectory over three thirty-five minute acts.

“Somewhere Fun” is full of clichés masquerading as whimsy and whimsy that  passes for deep thought. There is wordplay that amuses until it doesn’t despite the best efforts of the fine troupe of actors and director Anne Kauffman. In fact, “Somewhere Fun” features an excellent cast–including the brilliant and talented Kathleen Chalfant and splendid and versatile Kate Mulgrew. They and the ensemble work tirelessly to make lively sense of “Somewhere Fun” to no avail.

A pinch of fairytale, a sprinkling of Shakespeare, a soupçon  of police procedural, a dash of social commentary, and yet “Somewhere Fun” is just an unsatisfying stew.

For more information about “Somewhere Fun,” visit the Vineyard Theatre.

Posted in dark drama, family, genocide, Kathleen Chalfant, New York Theatre Workshop

Darkness in "Red Dog Howls"

Sometimes it seems like it’s hard enough to know who we are when no one has deceived us about our identity.

Kathleen Chalfant as Rose and Alfredo Narciso as Michael in “Red Dog Howls.” Photo by Joan Marcus. 

In “Red Dog Howls,” an elegiac new play by Alexander Dinelaris, at New York Theatre Workshop through October 14th, a young writer stumbles onto a devastating family history.

After his father’s death, Michael Kiriakos (Alfredo Narciso) follows the return address on letters left in a box under his father’s bed to an apartment in Washington Heights. There he meets Rose Afratian (Kathleen Chalfant), the author of this unread correspondence.

Florencia Lozano as Gabriella Kiriakos and Alfredo Narciso as Michael Kiriakos in “Red Dog Howls.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

With Rose as his guide on his journey to self-discovery, Michael neglects his pregnant wife, Gabriella (Florencia Lozano.) “There are some sins,” Michael tells the audience as “Red Dog Howls” opens,  “from which we can never be absolved.”

The disturbing and shocking in  “Red Dog Howls” is softened by the humanity of its characters. The astonishing Kathleen Chalfant reaches deep in to reveal a raw and  harrowing emotional energy.

Rehearsal Photo ©Stephanie Warren. Kathleen Chalfant,
Alfredo Narciso, and director Ken Rus Schmoll.

The Armenian Genocide of 1915 is a touchstone for a personal story of heritage-found in 
“Red Dog Howls.” Dinelaris, along with his excellent cast, and with the aid of director Ken Rus Schmoll, paints an absorbing tale of great scope in short intermissionless ninety minutes.

For more information and tickets for “Red Dog Howls,” visit