On Borrowed Time

Author: Paul Osborn 
Genre: Fantasy 
Time Period: Contemporary 
Format: 2 Acts 
Characters: 12 Male, 3 Female 
Setting/Sets: Three Sets, 10 Scenes (5 in each act) 
Reviewer: Claude Cawley 

Background and Summary

On Borrowed Time is a two-act fantasy adapted from the novel of the same name by Lawrence E. Watkin. The play was originally produced in 1938, but the time period could be deemed contemporary, although the dialogue may somewhat convey the flavor of early Twentieth Century.


The cast consists of fifteen characters (12 male and 3 female), primary of which are Pud, a young boy, Julian Northrup (Gramps—Pud’s grandfather), Nellie (Granny—Pud’s grandmother), and Mr. Brink, the personification of Death. The plot revolves around the coming of Mr. Brink for Gramps, and, as it turns out, for Granny. The death of the second grandparent would leave Pud in custody of Demetria Riffle, Pud’s aunt (an eventuality Gramps loathes), since Pud’s parents are deceased. Gramps succeeds in avoiding death by trapping Mr. Brink in an apple tree from which he can escape only at Gramps’ will. While this preserves Grams’ life, it also leaves the whole world with no death, a circumstance that has its own unthinkable consequences. Herein lies the central conflict of the play, which must be resolved at the end.


There are 10 scenes (5 in each act), which occur in three settings: the Northrup living room, Nellie’s bedroom, and at the site of the apple tree out in the yard; they could possibly be handled in a unitary set. The action requires Mr. Brink to appear and disappear in the apple tree, which presents a technical challenge.

MPAA Rating

If this play were rated according to MPAA guidelines, it would be PG-13, for adult language. One vehicle of the plot is Gramps’ habit of swearing, teaching Pud the bad habit. This is a subordinate conflict in the plot, providing a plausible motive for Nellie to recommend Pud’s custody to Demetria. It would, perhaps, be difficult to modify dialog relative to this point because the swearwords are central to the conflict.


(Are there any restrictions that might inhibit a production of the play for CRG?)
Language; Special Effects