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 Playwrights Horizons, Sarah Ruhl, theater, theater about theater, theater folk, women playwrights

“I won’t grow up!”

Man, realizing that he could not remain forever young, bestowed immortality on his gods and let them frolic in their gardens. Then he became jealous of their frivolity, and searched for the fountain of youth, for his own opportunity to act with irresponsibility.

For J.M. Barrie, the hunt for that “Neverland” was led by Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up. Peter Pan was played by a number of actresses over the years– Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, among them– and spawned a psychiatric syndrome not listed in the DSM.

In For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday, at Playwrights Horizons previewing August 18th and running through October 1st, Sarah Ruhl examines issues of immortality.

Her titular Peter is Ann (Kathleen Chalfant), an actress in community theater who played the boy 50 years ago in her youth. Those seeking to find their youth along with Ann are the “lost boys,” Wendy (Lisa Emery), Michael (Keith Reddin), Jim (David Chandler), John (Daniel Jenkins) and a dog named Macy. The cast, under Les Waters direction, is rounded out by The Father (Ron Crawford.)

For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday is the first play of the season at @PHnyc on their mainstage. On September 6th, the world premiere of a Playwrights Horizons commission, The Treasurer by Max Posner will begin at their Peter Jay Sharp space.

To learn more and find tickets for the Playwrights Horizons 2017-18 season, please visit
https://www.playwrightshorizons.org/

Table read of The Treasurer (photo from PHnyc website.)
Posted in acting, actors, first love, kissing, Neil Patel, Rebecca Taichman, Sarah Ruhl, theater folk

"Stage Kiss"

https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/8ai6TLoySoU&source=uds    Extended through April 6th
Actors lead different lives from the rest of us. Their nine-to-five is generally more like 7:30 to midnight.
For them, a kiss is work, and for actors just part of their day at the office.

“Stage Kiss,” at Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theater through March 23rd, is immensely clever. The play that wraps around the play within the play in Sarah Ruhl’s brilliant new comedy mirrors the events in the play being staged in the first act.

The cast of the play within the play with Jessica Hecht center take a bow.
Photo © Joan Marcus

She (Jessica Hecht), an actress in her 40s, auditioning for the role of Ada Wilcox, is surprised that the actor He (Dominic Fumusa), playing opposite her is her first love, just as Johnny Lowell is Ada’s in the melodrama they are rehearsing.

She (Jessica Hecht) and He (Dominic Fumusa) share a “Stage Kiss.”
Photo © Joan Marcus

“Stage Kiss” is about and of the theater. The perils of acting, like its joys, are in getting to embody anyone but yourself and getting to try out being someone else. “Stage Kiss” can be bestowed even on the unlikeliest of partners, as when She rehearses with Kevin (Michael Cyril Creighton), the understudy whose approach to the project is far more tentative and less empassioned than the one He plants.

     
She (Jessica Hecht) and
Kevin (Michael Cyril Creighton)
audtion a “Stage Kiss.”
Photo © Joan Marcus

 “Stage Kiss” is in part about creating character, and understanding love. Real life jeopardises theatrical life and messes with stage craft. Like Ada, She has an understanding Husband (Daniel Jenkins), and a life that takes on an over-the-top turn.

  • Will She and He rekindle their love?
  • Would she rather live in squalor with her first love than go back to her well-to-do husband?
  • What can her husband do to tip the balance in his favor?
  • Is that first love all we’ve cracked him/her to be?

Jessica Hecht lends a sophistication and an innocence to her character in “Stage Kiss.” Hecht has a distinctive voice that seems to both quesiton and admonish at the same time. In “Stage Kiss,” she gets to mimic, impersonate and do accents. At every nudge from The Director (Patrick Kerr), she nails it immediately and creates another persona.

There are so many facets to this superbly intelligent play.

There are in-jokes for theater folk: the ineffectual laissez-faire Director; the actress who hasn’t found work for years; the relentless optimism of reviving a less than mediocre play; the dangers of stage romance.

For the marrieds, there are questions about fidelity and temptation, and the risks in workplace romance.

Rebecca Taichman directs this excellent cast,  which also includes Emma Galvin as Angela, Millie and the Maid; Clea Alsip as Millicent and Laurie; and Todd Almond as The Accompanist. Todd Almond has also provided originally music for the production that fits the spirit of the enterprise very neatly.

Clea Alsip and Todd Almond in a scene from Sarah Ruhl’s
“Stage Kiss.” 
Photo © Joan Marcus

The sets which build from an empty rehearsal space to an elaborate 1930s drawing room and a truly delapidated and overcrowded East Village  mess of an apartment are the work of the talented Neil Patel. Costume designer Susan Hilferty is responsible for dressing the cast over various periods.

“Stage Kiss” is top-to-toe marvellous. Go and enjoy a wonderfully engaging theatrical experience.

For more information on “Stage Kiss,” please visit Playwrights Horizons. For more review, visit VevlynsPen.com.

Jessica Hecht and Daniel Jenkins in a scene from the play within
“Stage Kiss.” Photo © Joan Marcus
Michael Cyril Creighton, Daniel
Jenkins and Emma Galvin in a scene
from “Stage Kiss.” Photo © Joan Marcus

Jessica Hecht as She and Patrick Kerr
as the Director in a scene from
“Stage Kiss.” Photo © Joan Marcus