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By Elizabeth Youngman Westphal
Special to the Village News 

'The Father' shows Alzheimer's from the inside


Last updated 6/12/2018 at 1:22pm

The Moliere Award is a literary prize based on a theatrical technique created during the 17th century by the French dramatist Jean-Baptiste Poquelin aka Moliere. He is recognized as the creator of the comedic technique incorporating double-vision. Seeing two things at once. A broad approach to comedy akin to commedia dell’arte.

Not unlike the Yanny/Laurel internet phenomenon. As it turns out the words were broadcast on two different wave lengths and so your hearing determined which word you could decipher.

“The Father” written by a very young and proliferate novelist/playwright Florian Zeller used Moliere’s method to expose the onset (and eventual finality) of Alzheimer's disease.

Insightfully written, Zeller did not receive the namesake award for this play even though he has won it for other writings. He did however receive the very prestigious Prix de Illiterates in 2004.

In just 90 minutes, Andre (James Sutorius) reveals his compelling story. It is in the telling we see the mysteries of Alzheimer's disease. Sutorius as Andre allows us to view this debilitating disease from inside his cranium. We drown with him as he spirals into the depths of memory loss.

Supporting Andre on stage is his daughter Anne (Robyn Cohen). Cohen’s characterization is intuitive and selfish as her father’s health declines.

The rest of the players are a part of the binocular diplopia (double vision) adding to Andre’s confusion. In order of appearance are The Man played by Richard Baird, Pierre as interpreted by Matthew Salazar-Thompson, Laura is Jacque Wilke and Woman is Shana Wride.

These performances were even and interesting. I am still scratching my head about the time frame albeit a day, a month or over a period of time (open for your own interpretation according to the publicist). Certainly, the other characters are needed to tell this story.

The play’s blocking helps the audience explore the inner workings of Andre’s mind as it slides into delirium. We see Alzheimer's disease from inside his mind as he lives it. It is eerie.

“The Father” is a French play making its West Coast premiere at North Coast Rep. Directed by David Ellenstein with care, we are treated to a clever bit of literature without having to endure subtitles. Thank you for doing the show in English and not a fake-French accent. While not necessarily a happy topic, Alzheimer's disease is a reality.

North Coast Rep hit a home run. Now playing until June 24 at 987 Lomas Sante Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Free parking. Box office: (858) 481-1055, A solid 9 rating out of 10.

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