Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: The Father TOP PICK

Brilliant Journey Through Flawed Memories
By Lauren Yarger

That is the word that kept coming to mind with every scene and particularly with regard to Frank Langella’s gripping performance as The Father, a play by Moliere-winning playwright Florian Zeller getting a Broadway run at Manhattan Theatre Club.

In this translation by Christopher Hampton, Langella is André, an aging man living in Paris with his unmarried daughter, Anne (Kathryn Erbe). Or is he living with Anne and her husband, Pierre (Brian Avers). Or is Pierre really some other man (Charles Borland)?

Perhaps his personal care assistant Laura (Hannah Cabell) can help him remember and find his watch which always seems to be missing. But wait, is Laura really his daughter? Then who is that other woman (Kathleen McNenny)?

Poor André can’t seem to figure it out – or ever make it out of his pajamas (costumes are designed by Catherine Zuber) and time is passing too quickly – where is his watch? Is he at home or in a medical care facility? Scott Pask’s scenic design offers subtle changes between scenes to keep him – and us guessing.

The confusion in André’s mind is palpable and because we aren’t sure what’s real either, we fully understand his anxiety. Langella finds all of his character’s emotions and brings us on the roller coaster ride with him. In the blink of an eye -- mine often were moist with tears --  he takes us from a crescendo of laughter into a plunge of despair and cruelty.

Did his situation cause Anne to postpone plans to start a new life with the man she loves in London? Has he blocked guilt he might have felt about that – and about never disguising the fact that he preferred his other daughter, now deceased, to Anne? Or are these thoughts being superimposed on his own by a resentful Anne? Did he have a bad experience with Pierre – or some other man in her life – that caused him to interfere in their relationship? Or are the memories of an unkind man attached to Anne fabrications of a mind increasingly unable to distinguish fantasy from reality or to remember anything clearly?

Zeller’s decision to make the play’s point of view André’s confused mind is well, brilliant, as I said, and so is the direction by Doug Hughes.

Adding to the tension is excellent Lighting Design by Donald Holder as pulses of light dance around the proscenium evoking the image of impulses in André’s ’s brain searching for the right connection. Original Music and Sound Design by Fitz Patton, and even some Illusion Consulting by Jim Steinmeyer also create atmosphere.

It’s tense, it’s difficult to sit through and it’s fascinating. Don’t miss it.

The Father plays through June 11 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are $70-$150;  thefatherbroadway.com; (212) 239-6200.

-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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