Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The play, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, is elliptical and disorienting without becoming off-putting. At first, André (van Griethuysen) is self-possessed when his daughter Anne (Kate Eastwood Norris) expresses concern about his behavior: his health is not what it was and she can't look after him by herself. As far as he's concerned, she's worried about nothing and, if anything bad is happening, he's the victim.
Director David Muse carefully guides the six actors through a series of scenes bordered by blasts of white light from panels on the proscenium. André charms a prospective home health aide (Caroline Dubberly) before turning snide and ridiculing Anne; he finds unfamiliar people in his apartment, some of whom say it isn't his apartment at all; he can't find the right words and tries to express himself through gestures; and pieces of furniture seem to vanish when he isn't looking. The viewer has to put the pieces together (and a few of them remain missing), but the clues point to a person slipping into dementia and trying to hide the fact or at least hold on to what he knows is true.
The interplay between van Griethuysen and the other actors is never less than fully convincing, even when a woman André doesn't recognize says she's Anne, he mistakes another woman for his unseen other daughter, and he can't figure out which of two men is the one with whom Anne is living. The shock of Zeller's play comes from the realization that the audience is seeing André's experience through his eyes, not from the outside.
The exquisite craft of the production continues through Debra Booth's clean-lined scenic design, which provides detail at the beginning but becomes increasingly bare during the 90-minute run time.