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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "The Father", Starring Frank Langella, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "The Father", Starring Frank Langella, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights
Ariston Flowers
110 West 17th Street,
NY, NY 10011
Fax: 212.242.5479
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425 Lexington Avenue (44th St.)
NY, NY 10017
Fax: 212.867.0607

Manhattan Theatre Club
Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

The Father
(The Father Web Page)

By Florian Zeller
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Doug Hughes

Starring Frank Langella

Kathryn Erbe, Brian Avers, Charles Borland
Hannah Cabell, Kathleen McNenny

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Original Music & Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Illusion Consultant: Jim Steinmeyer
Production Stage Manager: James FitzSimmons
Casting: Nancy Piccione & Caparelliotis Casting
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Play Development: Elizabeth Rothman
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production: Joshua Helman
Line Producer: Nicki Hunter
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 16, 2016 Matinee

The Father, Florian Zeller’s 2012 play, is set in a Parisian apartment, belonging to André, a man advancing in years, who’s suffering from a fading of memory, due to Alzheimer’s disease, worsened by a lack of appropriate professional support and the increasing lack of patience of his daughter Anne (Kathryn Erbe), and her husband, Pierre (Brian Avers). By the end of the intermission-less play, we are not sure if we are actually looking at Anne’s apartment, if the setting is really London (where this play originally opened), and if Ms. Erbe is truly Anne, or is Kathleen McKenny actually performing as Anne, or is André envisioning his deceased daughter in place of the living one. Additionally, we are not sure if André is being tormented and abused by Mr. Avers’ personification of Pierre, or is it Charles Borland who is Pierre, who viciously slaps Mr. Langella’s face, when openly wishing André would move into an outside home. Yes, the muscular slaps are real, as we discovered in the post-show talkback, and Mr. Langella suffers through this eight times a week.

The lines between André’s actual experience and André’s deluded experience become more and more blurred as the play proceeds, with percussive electronics, dark stage lights, and flashing, framing lights, underscoring scenic shifts. The final character, Laura (Hannah Cabell), is a social worker, on the order of psychologist, whom Anne hires to assist André through these dark, dreadful memory lapses and delusions. The memory lapses take the shape of André losing his watch (which can no longer be found in the refrigerator or cabinet) and thinking it’s stolen, of André not recognizing his furniture or it’s placement, of André not remembering if Anne lives with him or he lives with Anne, and of André wondering if Pierre is visiting or he is visiting. Characters come and go, preceded by the dark, pulsating, electronic interludes, and scenes are exactly repeated, but with fewer pieces of furniture, a potted plant there or not there, and alternating cast as Anne and Pierre. Mr. Zeller’s play purposefully causes confusion and vagueness, so the audience can experience, at some level, André’s unease, angst, and loneliness.

In the play’s earliest scenes, Mr. Langella is well dressed and ready for company, somewhere between mobile and home-bound. Anne wants him to take a walk to the park, but André prefers the confines of close walls. As the brief scenes unfold, Mr. Langella is seen in pajamas, more and more withdrawn, paranoid, regressive. Most disturbing, considering the nature of André’s affliction, was the iciness of Anne’s enabling of Pierre’s verbal, and later physical, abuse and Anne’s offhand comments about going on vacation and leaving André in a home or in care with a stranger. Mr. Langella gives the performance of his life here, embodying the incremental changes in André’s comprehension and memory, from a man annoyed with the loss of a watch, to a fabrication that he made a living as a tap dancer (and he does a great dance to back up his claim), to his confusion and loss of time and place and people, to his final, heartrending scenes of ultimate despair. Doug Hughes, a masterful director, has brought Mr. Langella’s character to one that’s worthy of the highest awards. Scott Pask’s set is at first upscale and comfortable, and later stark and spare. Catherine Zuber keeps André, Anne, and Pierre looking like they shop on Champs-Élysées. Donald Holder’s lighting shifts from warm to florescent, and Fitz Patton’s sound includes the percussive, interlude flashes. Kudos to Frank Langella.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at