NEW YORK (AP) Ã¢â‚¬â€ "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."
This powerful thought opens and closes the sentimental off-Broadway revival of Robert Anderson's play, "I Never Sang for My Father," produced by the Keen Company.
Focusing on the complex bonds between children and their parents, the story centers on a middle-aged man, Gene Garrison (Matt Servitto), still seeking an emotional connection with his difficult, controlling, now-elderly father, Tom, who is played as thoroughly bombastic by Keir Dullea.
The always delightful Marsha Mason plays Gene's sympathetic and doting mother, Margaret. She urges her son to seek his own happiness, even if it means moving far away from his parents, who are both in frail health.
Mason is warm and loving as Margaret, while Dullea skillfully embodies the tyrannical, selfish and stubborn Tom. A pseudo-jocular but determined bully throughout Gene's life, Tom remains heedless of Gene's sorrows and desires. Servitt gives a heartbreaking, sensitive performance as the grown son obsessed with somehow, someday getting a sign of love from his father.
Director Jonathan Silverstein ably creates vignettes from Gene's memories that are contentious, intentionally awkward scenes between father and son. Tom's position as an admired pillar of the community is especially grating to Gene, who reflects on his own and his mother's neglected emotional lives in the shadow of this manipulative, self-absorbed man.
Although Mason doesn't appear in the second act, the remainder of the stifling father-son scenes are mercifully relieved by the appearance of Rose Courtney as Gene's older sister, Alice. Banished from the family by Tom when she married a Jewish man, Alice tries to help Gene stand up to their father and start living his own life.
Courtney perfectly captures the loving, understanding frustration of watching her brother continually caving in to his father's unreasonable demands.
Josh Bradford's perceptive lighting, and the dark, claustrophobic set by Bill Clarke, enable the audience to inhabit Gene's memories with him. Although Anderson's characters are a bit stereotypical, this talent-laden production breathes life into the Garrisons as a believable and tragic family.
"I Never Sang for My Father" is playing a limited run at Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre through May 1.