He said, she said
By August Strindberg
Strindberg's The Father is about an army captain, Adolf
(Angus Hepburn) and his wife, Laura (Terry Ann Bennett). She
expertly manipulates him into doubting whether their daughter, Bertha, is his,
a suggestion that drives him over the edge into insanity. She also manipulates
her brother (the local pastor) and the new doctor into thinking that the
captain's obsession with his daughter's paternity is a sign of insanity,
thus setting him up to be committed.
Adolf responds to Laura's attack with
the facts of a Victorian-era man's role in society: a woman gives up her
rights when she marries, in exchange for a man's protection. (He also
threatens to kill himself if she pushes the insanity argument, thereby doing
her out of the life insurance.) It is a battle between Olympic-class fencers
that turns Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? into a sandlot argument.
Adapted by John Osborne
Directed by Ralph Moniz
Yahoo Escadrille Theatre Co.
Producers' Club/Grand Theatre
358 W. 44th St. (841-0137)
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 17)
Review of The Father from www.oobr.com 3/15/2002
Review by John Chatterton
From the beginning, numerous ideas pop up, to resurface repeatedly: the roles
of men and women, the unprovability of paternity, religion vs. science,
predestination vs. free will -- even extraterrestial life. Like Palestinians
and Israelis, the two antagonists argue and haggle, but the battle goes
inexorably on -- there can be only one winner.
Hepburn and Bennett's performances were a clinic on the eternal question, what
is good acting? These two were not only listening closely to each other, they
were constantly alive to a cauldron of thoughts bubbling in their own minds.
Amanda Hilson, too, as their daughter, showed an astute combination of
innocence, forwardness, and misguided loyalty in a perfectly cast role.
Suzan Perry, as the old, religion-crazed nanny, Margaret, was also
perfectly cast, as a black-draped, Bible-toting Cabbage Patch doll, though
she didn't have the fire and energy of the two principals. Colin Ryan
showed a pleasing aspect as the pragmatic young guardsman Nöjd whose
possible impregnation of a maid starts the play off. Thomas G. Reitz
and Peter Brase as the pastor/doctor duo were less successful at
infusing their characters with spontaneity and variety.
The play, on reading, seems impossible: a man goes out in the snow on an errand
and comes back mad. The success of the huge dramatic arc gives credit not only
to the actors but to director Ralph Moniz. Every recurrence of the thematic
material was pointed up, and the pace was usually breathtaking (a bit too much
so at the end, when opening-night jitters apparently took over). John Osborne,
the original Angry Young Man, subtly modernized the script without detracting
from its 1887 roots (it played as if written yesterday).
Costumes (Suzan Perry) were lovingly detailed. The set (uncredited) was a
well-chosen desk, couch, and rug and not much more. Lights (Sean Bowen)
consisted of the Producers' Club's depressing complement of track lighting.
Sound comprised interval music and a couple of jarring sound effects. In memory,
though, this Father will play an open-ended run on the mental stage of
a real theatre, softly lit by real stage lights.
Copyright 2002 John Chatterton