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Essay

Selected Works: For Peter Pan

By Sam Myers, Literary Fellow

Magic pervades the worlds of Sarah Ruhl’s plays — a distraught hairdresser loses her sense of smell before transforming into an almond; a woman dies laughing at the perfect joke; an office temp becomes a bird. The superficially mundane lives of ordinary people are lifted into the realm of the sublime. Ruhl imbues her characters’ language with a heady poeticism, and she crafts stories with the free-associative logic of dreams. As we welcome her back for her third production at Playwrights Horizons, we invite you to peruse a sampling of her work to date.


Late, A Cowboy Song
2003, Clubbed Thumb (NY)
Directed by Debbie Salvetz 

An incurably late-married woman finds herself drawn to a lady cowboy who sings horses to sleep on the outskirts of Pittsburgh in this intimate three-character play.


The Clean House
2006, The Goodman Theatre (IL)
Directed by Jessica Thebus
2006, Lincoln Center Theater (NY)
Directed by Bill Rauch

A Brazillian housekeeper searches for the perfect joke in this mystical and humanely funny exploration of love, loss, and laughter. The play received the 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.


In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
2009, Berkeley Repertory Theatre (CA)
2009, Lincoln Center Theater (NY)
Directed by Les Waters

Set in the home of an enterprising physician in the 1880s, this play — which ultimately found a home on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre — details an idle housewife's ever-increasing curiosity about the unignorably intimate procedure her husband performs on women exhibiting symptoms of "female hysteria."


Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical
2012, Invisible Dog (NY)
Directed by Davis McCallum

Produced by 13P, and featuring an original score by Todd Almond, this lushly romantic and delightfully surreal meditation on intimacy and emotion introduces a woman whose melancholy is irresistible to everyone she encounters.


Stage Kiss
2011, The Goodman Theatre (IL)
Directed by Jessica Thebus
2014, Playwrights Horizons (NY)
Directed by Rebecca Taichman

The delineation between performance and reality becomes disconcertingly blurred in this beguiling backstage comedy. The play follows two actors with a tempestuous romantic history as they’re brought back into each other’s lives by their roles in a melodrama.


Eurydice
2007, Second Stage Theatre (NY) 
Directed by Les Waters

In a lyrical, elegiac reimagining of the familiar Orpheus and Eurydice myth, Eurydice is lured to a dreamlike underworld by a Nasty Interesting Man. Once there, her deceased father attempts to commune with a daughter who no longer recognizes him.


Passion Play
2008, Yale Repertory Theatre (CT) 
Directed by Mark Wing-Davey

This sprawling historical romp — playfully theatrical, epic in scope, and sharply satiric — spans three distinct eras and traces three sets of amateur actors as they perform Jesus’s death and resurrection.


Dead Man's Cell Phone
Playwrights Horizons commission
2007, Woolly Mammoth (DC) 
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
2008, Playwrights Horizons (NY) 
Directed by Anne Bogart

After coming into possession of an inexplicably dead stranger’s cell phone at a café, a woman finds herself consoling the stranger’s friends and family, attending his funeral, and inventing his last words.


The Oldest Boy
2014, Lincoln Center Theater (NY) 
Directed by Rebecca Taichman

When a Tibetan priest informs an American woman that her three-year-old son is the reincarnation of a Buddhist Lama, the question of the little boy’s fate sets the plot of this quietly beautiful play in motion.


Scenes from Court Life
2016, Yale Repertory Theatre (CT) 
Directed by Mark Wing-Davey

This political satire interweaves the stories of Charles II and George W. Bush in the context of their respective dynasties, tracing both men’s patrilineal inheritance.


How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
2017, Lincoln Center Theater (NY) 
Directed by Rebecca Taichman

In this probing investigation of domestic banality, two married couples invite a sexually adventurous temp and her polyamorous partners to a dinner party.

 

Photo credits: Carla Harting, Mather Zickel, and Addie Johnson in Late, A Cowboy Song, photo by Andromoche Chalfant. Concetta Tomei and Blair Brown in The Clean House, photo by Joan Marcus. Maria Dizzia and Hannah Cabell in In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, photo by Kevin Berne. Erik Lochtefeld, April Matthis, Amy Warren, Sarah Tolan-Mee, and David Greenspan in Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical, photo by Joan Marcus. Jessica Hecht and Dominic Fumusa in Stage Kiss, photo by Joan Marcus. Maria Dizzia in Eurydice, photo by Sarah Krulwich. Kathleen Chalfant and ensemble in Passion Play, photo by Joan Marcus. Kathleen Chalfant, David Aaron Baker, and Mary Louise Parker in Dead Man's Cell Phone, photo by Joan Marcus. Celia Keenan-Bolger in The Oldest Boy, photo by Sarah Krulwich. Danny Wolohan and Keren Lugo in Scenes from Court Life, photo by Carol Rosegg. Lena Hall and Marisa Tomei in How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, photo by Kyle Froman.