The Father – West Coast Premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre

The North Coast Repertory Theatre has scored a coup in presenting the West Coast premiere of a gripping play. “The Father” tells the story of a man facing the possibility that his mind is slipping away. The audience feels the man’s skidding realizations in a very powerful way. Florian Zeller’s play won the 2014 Moliere Award for best play in France and was nominated a year later for the Olivier Award for best play in England. On this continent, Frank Langella won a Tony in the eponymous role and the script was nominated for best play.

David Ellenstein, NCRT’s Artistic Director, directed “The Father” with a steady hand. As the supporting players move in and out of Andre’s daily life, the audience feels the ground shift beneath them as well. Andre is the title character, and he is played admirably by James Sutorius. He conveys the certainty of his observations, which we buy into. But as the supporting players undergo a type of shapeshifting, we are likewise perplexed.

Jacque Wilke and James Sutorius

Matthew Salazar-Thompson and Robyn Cohen

Shana Wride, James Sutorius, and Robyn Cohen

Family members become strangers, in-laws become caretakers and it all works well. The second guessing that is induced by the strong cast is the production’s strength. The stage design is both subtle and profound, kudos to Marty Burnett. The play is performed without an intermission, which is strategically sound. The ability to re-establish the mounting mental vertigo would be too difficult after a break.

Christopher Hampton handled the translation. As the youngest writer to have a play performed in London’s West End, he adroitly maintains the Parisian setting of the play while keeping the sentiments universal.

The play will either cut too close to home for some or provide a sympathetic resonance for others. Either way, it is well worth an evening of intimate theatre.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.