For a harrowing continuous 90 minutes, the audience of “The Father” is forced to confront the grim reality of the once dapper André as his mind deteriorates. One can’t escape the possibility that this might be our fate in the distant or not so distant future. You’ll have to ask yourself some hard questions and though this is a handsome Pasadena Playhouse production, it is not one for the weak at heart.
When we first meet André (Alfred Molina), he is well-dressed, almost too formal for meeting with his daughter in his nicely appointed, spacious apartment (scenic design by David Meyer). He has just fired his latest helper because she stole his watch, but his conversation with his daughter Anne (Sue Cremin) comically exposes his growing senility that the watch in question was misplaced rather than stolen. Yet under the direction of Jessica Kubzansky, this lightly comical scene might settle you into the wrong comfort zone.
Subsequent transitions leave us in the dark literally (lighting design by Elizabeth Harper) and when the lights come up again, we realize we remain in the figurative dark about reality. Does André live alone? Does he live with his daughter and her husband? Or has his daughter left to live in London, following her boyfriend?
In its original French version (“Le Père”), the play, which premiered in Paris in 2012, won a 2014 Molière Award for Best Play and both leads won awards. Translated by award-winning Christopher Hampton — a British playwright who adapted his own play to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 1988 Glenn Close-John Makovich vehicle, “Dangerous Liaisons,” the play continued to win awards. In 2016, Kenneth Cranham won an Olivier Award for Best Actor for the West End production and Frank Langella won a Tony the same year for the Broadway interpretation.
Zeller himself directed a film version that stars Anthony Hopkins that made its world premiere last month at Sundance, no US release date has been set.
At the Pasadena Playhouse’s production Molina’s André transitions from endearingly forgetful into frighteningly untethered to reality, forever lost in a fog. This is a wonderful production worth seeking out because we all need to take time for serious contemplation about our twilight years and those of our loved ones. “The Father” is a poignant reminder of how dementia can touch our lives and Kubzansky doesn’t soften the possible bleak loneliness at the end.
“The Father” continues until March 1. Tickets for “The Father start” at $25 and are available at pasadenaplayhouse.org by phone at (626) 356-7529, and at the box office at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena.