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Lost Play By ‘Peter Pan’ Author Turns Up In Texas

Aug 2, 2017

J.M. Barrie, at work at his desk in an undated photograph. Getty Images

It has been 80 years since J.M. Barrie died. It has been even longer since Peter Pan's creator penned The Reconstruction of the Crime with humorist E.V. Lucas — and yet in all this time, editor Andrew Gulli says the brief play the pair pulled together never glimpsed the stage or even the printed page.

That changes this week, as Gulli's The Strand Magazine has finally published the typescript of the bedroom farce long squirreled away at the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Center.

"It could be a short episode in a sit-com," Gulli tells NPR. "The husband is sick, and he's asking his wife to get a home remedy for him. The rooms get mixed up, and she ends up going to the room of the wrong person. And the wrong person gets very startled and feels that an attempt has been made upon his life."

In fact, the setup reminds him of another pop culture icon, one you might not readily associate with Peter Pan: Frasierthat mainstay of primetime TV comedy. "It's just a madcap, good-natured plot."

But — like the 1904 play that introduced Peter Pan, who famously asked the audience to save Tinker Bell by clapping — Barrie's undated collaboration with Lucas invokes their viewers directly. Only this time, the Scottish playwright asks them to keep quiet.

"Please don't applaud," a character known only as The Victim tells the crowd at the outset, according to The Associated Press. "Of course I like it; we all like it. But not just now. This is much too serious. The fact is I want to take you into my confidence: to ask your assistance. A horrible crime has been committed. An outrage almost beyond description has been perpetrated upon an inoffensive gentleman staying in a country hotel, and the guilty person has to be found."

But before the play could be published, Gulli says he had to unravel a mystery of mistaken identity in his own right.