Susan Granger’s review of “I Never Sang for My Father”
By Susan Granger
“Death ends a life…but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind…toward some resolution, which it never finds.”
And so begins and ends the off-Broadway revival of Robert Anderson’s absorbing, provocative and disturbing 1968 play about the timeless universality of the complicated, angst-ridden father/son relationship.
Middle-aged widower Gene Garrison (Matt Servitto) is still trying to forge an emotional connection with his stubborn, selfish father, Tom (Keir Dullea) whose health is failing. Dividing his time between Florida and Westchester County, where he once served as the town’s Mayor, truculent, loquacious Tom has dominated not only vulnerable Gene but also his ailing wife, Margaret (Marsha Mason), and Gene’s older sister Alice (Rose Courtney), who moved to Chicago when she was banished for marrying a Jewish man.
Sensitively and perceptively directed by Jonathan Silverstein, the somber, intimate drama about guilt and responsibility recreates vignettes from Gene’s memories that illustrate the contentious awkwardness that always existed between father and son, enhanced by Bill Clarke’s spare set, Josh Bradford’s evocative lighting and Theresa Squire’s period costumes. The acting ensemble is extraordinary. At the top of his game, Keir Dullea delivers a crusty, pugnacious, powerhouse performance, while Matt Servitto exudes a seemingly effortless naturalism, a remarkable combination of lived-in face, warmly modulated voice and subtly calibrated expression and Marsha Mason’s nervously anxious cheerfulness and tender compassion is pitch-perfect - with congenial Melissa Miller and Hal Robinson adroitly covering various supporting roles.
For people who really care about first-class, quality, intelligent theater, merging seamless playwriting, directing and acting, “I Never Sang for My Father” is at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theater through May 1.