Review: The Father

THE FATHER SAMUEL J. FRIEDMAN THEATRE 261 W. 47TH ST.  THE FATHER - CAST  Frank Langella Frank Langella as André  Kathryn Erbe Kathryn Erbe as Anne  Brian Avers Brian Avers as Pierre  Charles Borland Charles Borland as Man  Hannah Cabell Hannah Cabell as Laura  Kathleen McNenny Kathleen McNenny as Woman  Andrew Hovelson Andrew Hovelson as Pierre (Understudy)  Andrew Hovelson Andrew Hovelson as Man (Understudy)  Anthony Newfield Anthony Newfield as André (Understudy)  Person Placeholder Pilar Witherspoon as Anne (Understudy)  Person Placeholder Pilar Witherspoon as Laura (Understudy)  Person Placeholder Pilar Witherspoon as Woman (Understudy) THE FATHER - PRODUCTION CREDITS  Person Placeholder Florian Zeller Playwright  Christopher Hampton Christopher Hampton Translated by  Doug Hughes Doug Hughes Director  Scott Pask Scott Pask Scenic Design  Catherine Zuber Catherine Zuber Costume Design  Donald Holder Donald Holder Lighting Design  Fitz Patton Fitz Patton Original Music & Sound Design  Person Placeholder Alexander Greenfield Associate Director  Person Placeholder Jerome Martin Associate Scenic Designer  Person Placeholder Ryan Park Associate Costume Designer  Person Placeholder Porsche McGovern Associate Lighting Designer  Person Placeholder Patrick LaChance Associate Sound Designer  Person Placeholder Joshua Helman MTC Production  Person Placeholder Bethany Weinstein MTC Production  Person Placeholder James FitzSimmons Production Stage Manager  Person Placeholder Katherine Wallace Stage Manager  Jim Steinmeyer Jim Steinmeyer Illusion Consultant  Person Placeholder Nancy Piccione Casting  Person Placeholder Caparelliotis Casting Casting  Person Placeholder Florie Seery MTC General Manager  Person Placeholder Erin Moeller Company Manager  Person Placeholder Boneau / Bryan-Brown General Press Representative  Person Placeholder Chris Boneau General Press Representative  Person Placeholder Aaron Meier General Press Representative  Person Placeholder Melissa Cohen G

Frank Langella delivers a tour de force performance. Of course he does, it’s what he always does, and he’s done it again! In The Father, Langella plays 80 year old Frenchman André, whose mind, whether he likes it or not, is starting to go. One of the more remarkable things about Florian Zeller’s play is the way it puts you on the inside of dementia, lets you really feel the confusion from André’s point of view.

The fact that Langella is still physically imposing and effortlessly charismatic makes André’s descent all the more poignant. It’s also good casting on another level: André is a fiercely intelligent and independent man, after Langella’s own stripe.

The downside of The Father is that it requires an actor of Langella’s talents to keep it compelling. Playwright Florian Zeller, a rising star of French theatre, gives us a handful of startling coups de theatres, but there is also much in the play that is static or redundant.

As such, the other character in the play are ciphers for the most part, with the notable exception of his devoted but conflicted daughter Anne, played by Kathryn Erbe with harried dignity. Overall, Zeller’s script, for all its cleverness and insight, tends toward an icy intellectualism which does it no favors. Then again, most of French playwrighting since Beckett has had the same problem.

While these problems are a bit more serious than mere quibbles, there’s no denying that The Father really does feel designed to be a star vehicle, and it’s a largely effective one, especially with its very effective star. On that basis, I can easily recommend it.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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