“I can manage very well on my own”. This early line from Coal Mine Theatre’s latest offering sums up the sentiment of so many aging parents but also sends shudders through their trying-to-be-accommodating adult children. It also provides the basis for the 90 minute journey down the rabbit hole of Alzheimers that is The Father.
What makes this play standalone is that it is not only the main character ‘the father’ that gets things wrong but also the audience. We share in the confusion as events happen but then did they? This character is the daughter but is she? Did we have chicken for dinner? Is Laura actually going to London? Are you the husband? Did you just slap me? Whose apartment are we really in? Why are all the colour so muted, are really in a retirement home? By being pretty sure, but never 100% sure, the audience begins to suspect everyone and second guess their own notion of what is really going on.
Anchoring the action is a masterful performance by Eric Peterson (Corner Gas, Billy Bishop) who had to step into the role last minute, but you’d never know it. He is well supported by Trish Fagan (playing the daughter) who plays her character with needed reserve, trying desperately to do what’s right despite her father’s sometimes cruel ramblings. The other actors all play their roles professionally, but aren’t really given any opportunities to shine.
There is much to like in this play. It is the finest example to date of actually participating in the fear that is Alzheimers. The set, while small, manages to subtly transform with the slightest alterations. When the food is brought out you can smell it (so we know that part is real!). The soundscaping: Claude Debussy, the French composer renown for obscuring his time and key signatures, is fittingly used here in a play that obscures time and facts. His airy piano is sometimes contrasted with a low foreboding rumble which helps to amp up the uncertainty.
I did feel the intrigue started to slow a bit, (and literally go in circles) near the end, however Mr. Peterson’s tour-de-force performance and the many unique features of this play make it well worth the evening. The play runs till March 3 so remember to get your tickets soon. Did I mention that the play runs till March 3 so remember to get your tickets soon?