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A CurtainUp Review
In My Father's Words

Your lives -- our lives -- are defined by pieces of paper. Bibles, novels, passports, news, money, diplomas, our births, marriages, and deaths.—┬áLou
In My Father's Words
L-R: Muireann Kelly and Angus Peter Campbell
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Plays that make it to New York City from the UK are for the most part British or Irish imports. So it's a pleasure to find out that In My Father's Words is produced by Dundee Rep, one of the premiere art institutions in northern Scotland.

Justin Young's play, however, takes place in an old wooden house on the shores of Lake Ontario, Canada. It is here that Don (Angus Peter Campbell) has been slowly descending into dementia when his son Louis (Garry Collins) is called back home by local authorities.

Louis, an intellectual and classics professor who has long been estranged from his working-class father, wants to hire live-in help for round-the-clock care. But all he can find is Flora (Muireann Kelly), a single mother who can only care for his father during the day. This means Louis will be left in charge at night.

It's a difficult situation soon complicated when Don begins speaking in Scottish Gaelic, a language Flora understands but Louis does not. From then on, the play becomes something of a mystery as Flora tries to enlist Louis in finding out more about Don's mysterious past.

But In My Father's Words is much more.

Young has penned a story that explores language, identity and how together they affect our understanding of ourselves and others. Under Philip Howard's able direction, the play is often extremely moving.

Collins and Kelly carry most of the play (and almost all of the English dialogue). They are eloquent in their fiery scenes but equally effective in the quiet moments when they tentatively reach out to each other. Campbell, portrays dementia with a terrifying verisimilitude.

In fact, In My Father's Words might be a truly great play if the author could have figured out a satisfactory ending. As it is, Young introduces too many plot lines and leaves too many questions unanswered.

To make matters worse, this production has numerous technical problems. Projections (Iso and Emlyn Firth) misfire, and the lighting (Grant Anderson) is uneven; so poor at times that the English translations of Gaelic phrases projected on a screen are impossible to read. With just a few tweaks in the dialogue, most probably these translations would not be necessary at all, and a huge improvement for the audience.

A weak ending in any play is a disappointment, but in such a truly glorious play, it is heartbreaking. It would be wonderful if Young would take a second look, go back to the drawing (or writing) board and give us an ending worthy of this heartrending and penetrating work.

In My Father's Words by Justin Young
Directed by Philip Howard
Cast: Angus Peter Campbell (Don), Garry Collins (Louis), Flora (Muireann Kelly)
Designer: Fiona Watt
Lighting Design: Grant Anderson
Composer: Jon Beales
Video & Projection: Iso and Emlyn Firth
Stage Manager: Amy Keskeski
Running Time: 2 hours
Produced by Dundee Rep Ensemble as part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters 59 East 59 Street
From 6/4/15; opening 6/10/15; closing 6/28/15
Tuesday - Thursday @7:15pm, Friday @8:15pm, Saturday @2:15 & 8:15pm, Sunday 23:15pm
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons June 5, 2015
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