Wow. I'm still stunned, shaken, emotionally spent from Manhattan Theatre Club's production of The Father written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. As someone who has reviewed for several theater sites, I usually follow the rules of not reviewing a preview even for my own blog. The Father just started previews this week, but I MUST share this experience with others as it's a limited run and people must RUN to the theater to see this production.
Sometimes it is best to go into a show knowing little to nothing about it. Others want to be told what a show is about. If you want the full surprise, stop reading now and buy a ticket. For others, one should know that the father is dealing with dementia and Florian Zeller has created an immersive evening of theater that takes us as close to inside the man's brain as possible. Yes, there are comic moments, but the laughing stops when we watch how difficult it is for a person attempting to hang on to normalcy as everything shifts and changes around them. Forgetting people, places, and time: this production plays with ALL of those in a most brilliant way. You think you are missing something as you sit in the audience and that is completely the point.
Doug Hughes has directed this fine ensemble with such precision, keeping them on track in the slightly shifting scenes where you believe they are repeating themselves. The slight difference noticed in a look, a delivery (and Kathryn Erbe is incredible as the daughter attempting to hold it all together). A huge kudos to the running crew on this show too....that will make sense to you after seeing it.
And then... there is The Father: Frank Langella. For 53 years the man has been sharing his craft on stage, film, TV and is always so brilliant in whatever choices he makes as an actor. But seeing him live on stage - especially in this role - I was blown away. He had me in the palm of his hand and could go anywhere on that stage and I'd follow. The range of a man living with dementia - repeating scenes - I couldn't help but wonder how the 78 year old actor memorized this show. Yet you don't feel you are watching an actor...you are watching Andre as he crumbles before us and it is gut-wrenching and somehow still beautiful in its sadness. I'm in awe of the masterclass I received tonight and so grateful to my friends for taking me to see this. I DEFINITELY want to return before it ends June 12th.
Warning: this show may be hard for those who have a family member that is dealing with this...I think it may hit very close to home for those as I heard plenty of sniffles around me. But man, this is what theater is about: making you feel, live, love. Thank you, Manhattan Theatre Club.