Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
The FatherPasadena Playhouse
As the story begins, André (Alfred Molina), an older gentleman, is happy living in his beloved apartment, but he's certain that the caregiver his daughter Anne (Sue Cremin) secured for him has stolen his pocket watch. In reality, André had just misplaced the watch and then physically attacked the caregiver, who left the job, as have others before her. Anne moves André in to live with her and her husband Pierre (Michael Manuel), helpless as caring for her deteriorating father absorbs her life. Meanwhile, André rages and fears as every aspect of his life is gradually taken away from him.
Anybody who has been lucky enough to see Molina onstage before knows that he can charm and bluster with the best of them, but it's his vulnerability in this performance that truly stands out. In the beginning of the play, André is a smart, funny and confident man, and it's the tragedy of the story that dementia doesn't care about any of that. Molina's portrayal of André's growing confusion and existential terror is heartbreaking not just in that we feel for the character, but that he makes it clear that this could happen to anyone.
Cremin is quite good as the put-upon Anne, besieged not only by her father's situation but by Pierre's growing frustration with it. Manuel brings an uncomfortable intensity to Pierre, who radiates untrustworthiness whether he's being seen through Anne's eyes or André's eyes. Pia Shah exudes upbeat charm as new caretaker Laura, while Robert Mammana and Lisa Reneé Pitts both excel in multiple roles.
Director Jessica Kubzansky does a terrific job both getting great work from her cast and also making sure the disorientation effects inherent in the script are executed flawlessly. David Meyer's apartment set is a picture of elegance and comfort, and the malleability of its design helps the production significantly. Zeller's play works on multiple levels, from the moving drama to the cutting wit of the dialogue, but it works best in utilizing a couple of tricks that can really only be accomplished most effectively in a theatre. I won't spoil them here, but they're brilliantly clever.
Florian Zeller has become a sensation in Europe and here in the U.S., and this production of The Father couldn't be a better introduction to this new theatrical voice.
The Father runs through March 1, 2020, at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena CA. Tickets and info are available at www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
By Florian Zeller. Directed by Jessica Kubzansky. Lighting Designer, Elizabeth Harper; Scenic Designer, David Meyer; Sound Designer, John Zalewski; Costume Designer, Denitsa Bliznakova.