, 2019

August 25 at 8:00 PM, August 27 at 9:00 PM, August 28 at 6:30 PM, August 31 at 5:00 PM, September 1 at 2:00 PM, September 2 at 9:00 PM.
Theater for the New City (Johnson Theater), 155 First Avenue
Tickets $18
Presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) as part of the Dream Up Festival 2017
Box Office: (212) 254-1109, www.dreamupfestival.org
Running Time: 1:40.

The Father photo
Brad Fryman as the Father, Bailey Newman as his daughter.
Photo by James Rucinski.

In this 1887 drama, a husband and wife struggle over who will control their daughter, with tragic consequences. Adolph is an army captain, a scientist and a "free thinker." He would have his daughter educated to be a teacher, while his wife, Laura, would have her become a painter. Adolph insists that the law supports him because a woman sells her rights when she agrees to be married. Laura responds with cunning and manipulation, casting doubts as to whether Adolph is actually the father of the girl and manipulating him into the irrational act of throwing a lamp at her. She also manipulates the town Pastor (who happens to be her stepbrother) and the newly arrived town Doctor for her purposes, using her erotic influence over the doctor and her readiness to claim that the family lawyer is her child's father to unseat her husband's presence of mind. This drives him into the arms of his old trusted nurse, who straitjackets him.

Conceived before Freud described the Oedipus Complex, the play offers a proto-Freudian explanation of the unreasonable hatred that can exist between husbands and wives. Another psychoanalytic interpretation of "The Father" is that Strindberg shows how love can turn to hate when a man seeking a mother-madonna finds in the sex act a mistress-whore. Strindberg's marriage to Siri von Essen was deteriorating at the time and situations in the play could have loosely recalled their marital strife.

Depending on the time of history, audiences tend to side with either the captain or his wife. The captain's insistence on "male perogatives" makes it sometimes seem that his wife's scheming brings him his just deserts. At other times, he seems a tragic victim of a diabolical female who, in the course of the play, is even told by the Pastor and the Doctor that she is a monster. Director/translator Robert Greer points out that one reason the play fell out of favor in the 1960s and 70s was that it was viewed as reactionary. Nowadays, audiences can't help switching sides back and forth in watching it.

Mr. Greer's translation does not steer us toward either conclusion; instead it finds hidden sexual meanings in the original Swedish dialogue (bowdlerized in many translations) that seem to drive the play. Much of it comes from the sexual electricity between the wife and the doctor. The translation doesn't resort to crude language, but it does convey some of the subtext that is near the surface. Meanwhile, deeper subtext is left in place for the actors to mine in their performances.

Brad Fryman" plays the Captain, Natalie Menna plays the wife and Daniel Lugo" plays the Doctor. Bailey Newman plays the Daughter, Toby Miller" plays the Pastor, Jo Vetter* plays the Captain's old Nurse and Tyler Joseph" plays the Captain’s orderly. Stage manager is Georgeta Seserman.

A previous rendition of this translation was presented last November by August Strindberg Rep at Gene Frankel Theatre, in rotation with an evening of three plays by Natalie Menna on the subjects of narcissism and authority in relationships.

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*=appears courtesy Actors Equity.


Strindberg, a titan of modern theatre on par with Ibsen, is finally getting his due this side of the pond thanks to Robert Greer, the play’s gifted director and translator. Greer has done an extraordinary service for American theatre, directing eleven Strindberg plays to date. I look forward to more. -- Joshus Crone, Reviews from Underground

Other Reviews:
Beate Hein Bennett, New York Theatre Wire
Jon Sobel, Blogcritics


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