Friday, October 15, 2010

fathers & sons & neptune plays about them

here's my Halifax Magazine review of the neptune's new play, fathers & sons:

Neptune Theatre kicked off its Studio season last night with Don Hannah’s Fathers & Sons, a warm, funny look at the changing relationship between two men.

Fathers & Sons is divided into four parts, each carried over by Tessa Cameron’s violin rendering of Heinrich Biber’s Mystery Sonata #5, and Hannah’s inquisitive play makes great use of the intimate space offered in Neptune’s smaller venue.

It gets off to a slow start, with Theo Pitsiavas alone on stage as Hilt, the father. John Fitzgerald Jay rolls about and gurgles on the corner, squealing for his ball and dog. Jay is a grown man playing baby Allen, always a tough challenge, and he doesn’t quite nail it. This leads to some awkward moments as the two men play airplane and cuddle, but things pick up in the second part.

Allen morphs into a moody 1970s teenager clashing with his father’s old-fashioned sensibilities in small-town New Brunswick. While Hilt struggles to cover up for his drunken, lecherous coworker, Allen discovers Leonard Cohen, literature and his own libido. While his father mutters that sex is only dirty if you make it so, Allen writes raunchy fantasies about buxom European women arriving in the New World to discover a waiting population of lusty men.

When father confronts son over the “smut,” Hilt tells his boy that his mother talked to him about sex exactly once. “She told she hoped I would not be like other men and then pretended to cry,” Hilt says. Allen cocks an eye at the audience – his father’s life will not be his.

This is the heart of the play – how sons grow up idolizing fathers, but then have to push them away to become men themselves. Pitsiavas and Jay do a superb job of capturing their bond as intimate strangers, men who have shared a whole life, but who struggle to make conversation.

“Well sir,” is the best Hilt can manage when his son shows him a letter praising his poetry.

“I would never be able to please him,” Allen realizes.

Pitsiavas is solid as a Willy Loman-type toiling away in a dying world, but it’s Jay who shines in a warm, hilarious and smart portrait of the artist as a young man. He doesn’t judge his father’s alien world, but merely tries to understand it.

Fathers & Sons is at Neptune’s Studio Theatre until Oct. 24. Call 429-7070 or go to Neptunetheatre.com for more information.
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