I Never Sang for My Father

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater
Now is the time to witness one of the great performances being conducted on any stage across the spectrum of Southern California theater. Philip Baker Hall is playing Tom Garrison in Robert Anderson’s prescient 1968 play, I Never Sang for My Father. It is one of the most truthful and detailed portrayals you’re likely to see in this or any other year for that matter.
Tom is the aging patriarch of the Garrison family. Long past his prime and long into retirement, we encounter Tom and his wife Margaret (Anne Gee Byrd in a marvelously naturalistic performance) as they are meeting their 40-something son, Gene (the emotionally attuned John Sloan in an authentic interpretation). They have arrived by train.
Masterfully, playwright Anderson gives us all the exposition we need in the initial interchange between elderly father Tom and middle-age son Gene over the luggage claim. Tom is insistent but absentminded; strong-willed but forgetful; controlling but of questionable competence. In steep decline and deep denial, Tom’s increasing dementia becomes the concern and ultimately the responsibility of Gene.
Under Cameron Watson’s affectively hued direction (aided by John Iacovelli’s inventive scenic design; Christopher M. Allison’s richly blurred projection design; and the period/age appropriate costuming of Terri A. Lewis), I Never Sang for My Father is a tough examination of an age-old dilemma—the generational transition. Though scripted before geriatric issues had hardly entered the medical lexicon, Anderson’s intelligent and complex play has foresight  that proves startling in retrospect, while also lending insight and possibility into “questions that are worthy of thought and discussion,” as honorable actor Philip Baker Hall himself recently stated in an interview with LA Stage Times.
Lending to the powerful story-telling of I Never Sang for My Father are Dee Ann Newkirk in a profound portrait as Tom’s disowned daughter, Alice—and Tom Halligan, John Combs, Paul Messinger, Brittani Ebert, and Chelsea Povall in various supporting roles. I Never Sang for My Father is a heart-searing theatrical experience brought too close for comfort by this excellent ensemble, but just close enough for a serious and in-depth look at a never-ending social saga. For dedicated theatergoers and aficionados of the thespian’s craft, I Never Sang for My Father is a must-see production.
"I Never Sang for My Father" is a production of The New American Theatre and continues at the McCadden Theatre—1157 North McCadden Place, Hollywood—through May 22. Show times are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees are at 3 p.m. on Sundays. For reservations, dial (310) 701 – 0788. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.NewAmericanTheatre.com.