CEDAR RAPIDS — As the title suggests, “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” is not child’s play, nor is it a play for children. But it will strike a chord with adults who were kids and still are kids at heart as they delve into their memories of life’s most difficult times.

This Theater Cedar Rapids production runs May 13-29 on the Brucemore Outdoor Stage. It was very cold during a recent evening rehearsal, but it should feel like a short summer this weekend.

Robins’ Marty Norton can live out a childhood fantasy when she dons the familiar costume from the play’s third movement, “For Peter Pan on His 70th Birthday.” Theater Cedar Rapids picks up Brucemore playwright Sarah Ruhl’s homage to the changing cycles of life. The show will run May 13-29 on the outdoor stage near Duck Pond on the historic estate southeast of Cedar Rapids. (workshop reserved)

Robins’ Marty Norton, who just turned 70, is thrilled to play the lead, after she and a group of theater friends saw the show a few years ago in Wisconsin.

“It’s for older people who have experienced life,” she said, adding that maybe teenagers, but not children, would appreciate it.

A three-movement piece, it opens with five adult brothers and sisters, aged 50 to 70, gathered around their father’s deathbed in hospital.

In the second movement, they gather in their family home to drink whiskey and reminisce about their late father, their youth, their relationships, and how it all continues to influence their choices as adults. Their father appears as a ghost on the outskirts and, early on, gives them a sign they don’t easily realize, but the audience will appreciate.

This is the first time veteran actor Steve Weiss, 73, of Cedar Rapids, has played dead.

“I really appreciate all of this, for two reasons,” he said. “I can do something I’ve never done before.

“And while I’m laying here waiting to die, the theatrical knowledge and timing that I’m learning from all of you is just amazing,” he said, gesturing to the rest of the arriving actors. for repetition. “In the second movement, I’m just a ghost and I have no lines. I interact spiritually. Again, it’s about gaining knowledge.

The third movement involves a trip to Neverland, where these adult siblings play the fairy tale characters, and Weiss gets to watch the action.

The piece is designed to flow seamlessly between movements and does not stop for an intermission.

“It’s funny, and it’s sweet, and it’s political, but this family loves each other,” Norton said of the show. “They love each other so much, but they can still disagree on all kinds of levels. You just don’t get a show like that.

It’s not a musical either. It’s playwright Sarah Ruhl’s love letter to her mother, actress Kathleen Ruhl, who played Peter Pan many times at the Davenport Children’s Theatre. Like in Davenport, Iowa.

If you are going to

What: “For Peter Pan on His 70th Birthday”

Or: Theater Cedar Rapids at the Peggy Boyle Whitworth Outdoor Amphitheater of Brucemore, 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids

When: 7:30 p.m. from May 13 to 29, without intermission

Supplements: The site opens at 6:30 p.m. for parking and picnics; bring seats, food and drinks.

Tickets: $25 adult, $15 youth/student, theatrecr.org/event/for-peter-pan-on-her-70th-birthday-2/2022-05-13/

In the play, Kathleen was renamed Ann, and in real life she starred in her daughter’s play when it premiered in April 2017 at the Shattered Globe in Chicago.

The name of this theater foreshadows the decor of Brucemore. Those who go there will find that this area has changed dramatically, even from last year’s performance, as the derecho cleanup continues on the historic Cedar Rapids Southeast Estate.

Almost all of the trees behind the hearing area and around the duck pond are gone. Those who majestically held the sentry behind the scene show their storm scars even more dramatically.

It’s always a magical place to stage a magical play – especially in the third movement where the adults play Neverland.

It’s an intimate play, where most of the actors stay onstage throughout, which makes it different from the usual outside Brucemore fare, where actors come and go across the grounds and around the pond.

“But we make it work here,” said director David Morton, 58, of Cedar Rapids, a veteran of many outdoor stage shows. It also helps that he is the estate’s landscape curator, so he knows the terrain like no one else.

“I think what helps add to the piece is the magical place of Brucemore. We tried to integrate the landscape with a few elements,” he said. “…We let the actors come from the audience. And Hook comes from around the tree.

“Before, when you made a back entry, you could walk around the pond and no one could see you,” Norton added. “It doesn’t take the field like most of the shows that are done here, but any time you can do a show in Brucemore, it’s magic.”

The show is densely layered, Norton added.

“It’s like peeling an onion,” she says. “There are layers and layers, and we continue to make discoveries. And we’ll do it until it’s done, and we’ll do it in the future because it’s going to stay with us. I love his writing. She is magical. And his timelines are flawed. Never do the math, because it will never come out. But that doesn’t matter. Someone called it “Ruhlian’s theory”. It’s her.

“She turns things aside, and it works. It doesn’t matter that you couldn’t be that old and have done it then. Because he creates his own timeline,” Norton said.

“I think everyone is going to find something to tell in this piece,” Morton said. “And there are so many ways to do it. Sometimes you wonder as a director, ‘My God, is this the right choice?’ But I think you have to trust the hardware.

The source material is something that has spoken to Norton since she was around 7 years old, so when she found out about this version through online theater sites, she couldn’t wait to get a chance to see it somewhere. and maybe to actually be there.

“I’ve had this Peter Pan thing since I was little when we used to watch it every year, and you could have popcorn in the living room,” she said. “And the first time I think I saw it, the next day I tried to fly off the roof of our house. We had a flat-roofed house. And my mom said, ‘I thought you were smarter than that.’ But I was so caught up in it all. I never tried it again. But I watched it every year.

Now she finally has her chance to fly.

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It didn’t always seem summery during rehearsals for “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday.” Not so long ago, the cast of this production from Theater Cedar Rapids in Brucemore were dressed in winter gear. (David Morton)