French Playwright Florian Zeller’s Drama Starring Frank Langella
On April 14, 2016, The Father opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in a Manhattan Theatre Club production. The play had been running in previews since March 22, 2016, and it is presently on sale until June 12, 2016. The Father originally premiered in France under the title Le Père, and it won the 2014 Molière Award for Best Play, which is considered to be France’s highest honor for theatre. The play was also adapted into a film called Floride, which premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival in August 2015. The English language premiere was at the Theatre Royal in Bath, England, premiering in 2014 starring Kenneth Cranham in the title role. The play is translated to English by Christopher Hampton (God of Carnage, Les Liaisons Dangereuses). The American premiere came straight to Broadway under the auspices of the Manhattan Theatre Club, with Frank Langella stepping into the part. Langella is a versatile actor who has thus far won three Tony Awards – for Seascape in 1975, Fortune’s Fool in 2002, and Frost/Nixon in 2007 – and he also received an Academy Award nomination for his reprisal of his role in the film adaption of Frost/Nixon. In addition, The Father stars Kathryn Erbe (A Month in the Country), Brian Avers (Rock ‘n’ Roll), Charles Borland (A Man for All Seasons), Hannah Cabell (A Man for All Seasons), and Kathleen McNenny (Fish in the Dark), and it is directed by Doug Hughes.
In response after opening night, Ben Brantley of The New York Times raved about The Father, calling the drama cold-eyed and harrowing, and deeming Frank Langella to be one of the most magnetic actors of his generation. Adam Feldman from Time Out New York was also a fan of the play, remarking on its evocative subtitle, “A Tragic Farce,” and admitting that the play may not be very deep, but it is effective and sad. Other critics were less convinced of this production’s success. David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter calls the play a “slippery one-act,” admitting the staging is eloquent, but ultimately condemning it as a stubbornly unemotional piece of work that is too cerebral and keeps the audience at too much of a distance from the characters. Similarly, Jeremy Gerard from Deadline felt the play was beautifully orchestrated and that Langella’s performance was full of empathy, and yet determined that the production seemed slight. Finally, Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News called the play slick but superficial, deeming it full of meaty dramatic schemes but ultimately did not find it groundbreaking.
A Tough Sell at the Box Office
In the last week of reported box office figures, the week ending April 10, 2016, The Father brought in $243,636, which represents just 34.38% of its gross potential. Nevertheless, this was the highest weekly gross of the run to date. The previous week had a weekly gross of $214,587, which represented 30.28% of its gross potential, and the first partial week of seven performances had a gross of $163,744, which represented just 26.40% of its gross potential. The highest audience capacity was also reached this past week, coming in at an average of 88.4%, and yet the overall box office does not look very promising. Certainly the reviews coming out after opening will spur recognition that the show is on Broadway, but the mixed nature of the reviews may or may not lead to an increase in ticket sales.
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