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Atlantic Theater Company Presents "The Mother" at Linda Gross Theater
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Atlantic Theater Company Presents "The Mother" at Linda Gross Theater

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Atlantic Theater Company Presents
The Mother
(The Mother Web Page)

Linda Gross Theater
336 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011

By Florian Zeller
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Trip Cullman

Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth
Justice Smith, Odessa Young

Sets: Mark Wendland
Costumes: Anita Yavich
Lights: Ben Stanton
Sound & Original Compositions: Fitz Patton
Projections: Lucy Mackinnon
Fight Director: J. David Brimmer
Casting: Telsey & Company,
William Cantler, CSA, Adam Caldwell, CSA,
Karyn Casl, CSA
Dialect Coach: Kate Wilson
Stage Manager: Samantha Watson
Production Manager: S. M. Payson
Production Stage Manager: Lizzy Lee
General Manager: Pamela Adams
Associate Artistic Director: Annie MacRae
Director of Marketing: Claire Graves
Director of Development: Ana Frenkel
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2019 Matinee

Florian Zeller’s new play, The Mother, exquisitely existential, stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman in psychic implosion, just as her 2016 play, The Father, starred Frank Langella as a man sliding into dementia. Both plays are set at home. In The Mother, Ms. Huppert sits frozen on a stark white couch as long as a train, and, if you can tear your eye from her introverted gaze, you will see dozens of empty pill bottles strewn beneath the couch and various objects of (scenic designer Mark Wendland’s) contemporary furniture. As the one-act play progresses, this Mother, Anne, is featured in repetitive, angst-ridden scenes, with the “Father”, Peter, the “Son”, Michael, and the “Girl”, who, if she exists, is having an affair with Peter and triples as Michael’s girlfriend and a nurse. Chris Noth is a distracted, passive aggressive, and somewhat sadistic husband, who purposely denies infidelity, moments before contacting and hooking up for rendezvous with the Girl. Or, since scenes are constantly reinvented, with different tones and behavior, while the spoken lines remain the same, fragments of or entire vignettes could be psychedelic side effects of those hundreds of ingested pills.

It would be a vast understatement to say that Anne is lonely, depressed, terrified, isolated, angry, fragile, and exhausted. Her strength is almost ghostlike, as she moves in her own ethereal haze (Ben Stanton designed lighting.). She wants Peter to stay close, but this conservatively attired businessman (Anita Yavich designed costumes.), with a busy briefcase and suitcase, is always heading for the door. He returns, the conversation repeats, he leaves, sometimes the Girl (Odessa Young) is outside the door, sometimes she comes in, sometimes Anne and the Girl confront each other, sometimes they don’t see each other, and so on. And then there’s the Son (Justice Smith). Michael has a girlfriend with whom he lives, and he visits Anne, who feeds him and begs him not to leave, over and over. At the end of this 90 minute or so play, the audience is mentally exhausted, as well, reconfiguring dramatic passages to absorb the French playwright, Mr. Zeller’s intent. Christopher Hampton did a fine translation, and as a Francophile, I was comfortable with Ms. Huppert’s natural accent. I just wish she had been able to project her voice tonally, as mumbled words dissolved within the stage. A clearer sound system by Fitz Patton would have helped.

Trip Cullman’s direction enhanced the state of fictional and audience dissonance, astutely expanding on Anne’s disorientation, as well as ours. Just as we momentarily think there might be a sitcom marital resolution, the air is sliced with contrasting behavior and dialogue. The role of the Son, Michael, is the least developed, as he, too, is depressed and conflicted, seemingly trying to exorcize past pain. Kudos to Florian Zeller for taking us on another psychological journey into the human soul. I look forward to his next play in the series. Will it be titled The Son?

Isabelle Huppert and Chris Noth
in "The Mother"
Courtesy of Ahron R. Foster

Isabelle Huppert and Justice Smith
in "The Mother"
Courtesy of Ahron R. Foster

Isabelle Huppert and Odessa Young
in "The Mother"
Courtesy of Ahron R. Foster

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