The perception of reality is in the eye of the beholder – the truths one holds and remembers to be true has a profound effect on a person’s interactions with those around them and their surroundings. The Height of the Storm is a complex play in which test these boundaries with a shifting puzzle to solve written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. The play is a transfer from the West End for a limited run from now through November 24, 2019, playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Tickets were obtained the usual way (via the TDF table at the BC/EFA Flea Market) and I was intrigued by the premise of the play, and its stellar cast, all of whom transferred from the West End.
The 90-minute play revolves around Andre and Anne, a long married couple and their interactions with their two adult daughters, Madeline and Elise, with the daughters doing their best to help their parents cope with widowhood in an empty house, though it’s not always clear as to which parent has passed and which parent is still among the living. Shocking revelations are uncovered, shattering the carefully crafted beliefs within this family – or do they? The shifting perspectives and passage of time leaves the state of the family in a grey area of mystery, though by the play’s end, it’s (somewhat) clear as to who is among the living and who is not.
The scenic design is of one set – a kitchen with the other rooms in slight forced perspective, exuding a sense of claustrophobia in which the characters interact with one another; the lighting design accentuate the shifting perspective, with shadow and light as vital clues to the puzzle. The cast is stellar, led by Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins as Andre and Anne, both of whom gave haunting performances full of rage, grief and a touch of madness.
The stage door was sparse, most likely due to the fact that that evening was unusually cold and windy for mid-November, though the few that waited in the cold were greeting by the two leads and had the opportunity to chat with them before they were ushered into the respective cars. Without giving away the twist (?) The Height of the Storm is a mind bogging tale which has the audience wondering what is real and what imagined and provides more questions than answers, leading (forcing?) the audience to pay close attention to what is going on in an attempt to make sense of it all. It’s ultimately haunting and all too real all at the same time, playing with the perception of reality and time.