Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Aurora Theatre Company
Review by Patrick Thomas

Also see Patrick's reviews of Wintertime and Camelot

William Thomas Hodgson and Sam Jackson
Photo by Kevin Berne
It's always thrilling to be present for the world premiere of a new play—especially because it seems like such a rare event, with so many companies opting to stage revivals that have a track record of attracting audiences. (Shout out to Berkeley's Central Works for their commitment to only stage original, never-before-produced plays.) So it was with great excitement that I made my way to the Aurora Theatre Company for the premiere of Kait Kerrigan's new play, Father/Daughter.

Kerrigan's story crosses generations, with two actors—Sam Jackson and William Thomas Hodgson—each playing two roles. In the first scene we meet Baldwin and Risa, who have met in a Collective Flow class (a combination of dance, yoga and fitness that the two perform as lights come up) and get together at a bar for a first date. Kerrigan's dialogue is sharp and conversational, revealing the terrors of trying to make a connection with someone with whom you just might want to spend a lifetime. They circle each other like boxers in the ring, searching for openings in their opponent's defense, all the while keeping their shields fully engaged. When Baldwin reveals he has an eight-year old daughter, Risa is thrown for a loop.

Then, suddenly, the action jumps 23 years into the future and Jackson is now playing 31-year-old Miranda, Baldwin's daughter, and Jackson is Louis, her new paramour, and we begin to see how Baldwin's nature is reflected in his daughter, who is slightly estranged from her father—as she has been most of her life.

The play toggles back and forth between these two timelines, but it's often unclear when Jackson is Risa and when she is Miranda, or when Hodgson is Baldwin or Louis. There are occasionally subtle physical cues to help us distinguish between the characters, but they are far too subtle to be of much use, especially in the early stages of the play. Some minor costume changes might have helped the audience follow along. But something is required, because I overheard more than one person whispering the action to their sweetmeat: "See-now she's the daughter and he's her boyfriend, but he's also playing the father sometimes."

Despite this somewhat confusing narrative, Hodgson and Jackson deliver solid performances. They have an easy way with each other when they are lovers, yet are able to ratchet up the tension as father and daughter, or when they are in conflict as couples. The final scene, when Hodgson as Baldwin and Jackson as Miranda are finally both on stage at the same time (previous encounters between the two were realized as one-sided telephone conversations), is wonderfully powerful, yet in a tender, heartfelt way. If only that dramatic tension and the witty sparring of the opening scenes could have been maintained through the slog of the middle third of Father/Daughter. But another nice thing about world premieres is that the playwright gets to experience her play through an audience's point of view and can improve upon it for its next run.

Father/Daughterruns through December 12, 2021, at the Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley CA. Shows are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $44-$53. Tickets and additional information are available at or by calling 510-843-4822.