It’s an extremely unhappy place over at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row where Fathers & Sons, a new play written by Richard Hoehler who also costars with Edwin Matos, Jr. has just opened in a limited engagement through October 4th. These men are not happy. And thusly neither are we.
We meet Edwin (Mr. Matos) and Richard (Mr. Hoehler) rehearsing Fathers & Sons – the play within this play, written by Richard – which just so happens to mirror their own lives, up to a point. They are preparing for the opening – which is two days away. A VIP from the Public Theatre has promised to attend. The play which has its title lifted from the novel by Turgenev is a series of scenes between fathers and sons or variations of pairs of men who have intense issues with each other. These scenes make individual sense but could never add up to a satisfying play and the VIP will surely be as disappointed with it as I was.
Richard is the older father figure. Edwin is the protégé who is always late, always has a lame excuse, forgets his lines and more or less drives Richard nuts with his goings on. He also is a Latino Hottie and it isn’t long before we see him shirtless. Why does he put up with Edwin? Is he getting too close to Edwin? Is this really about gay/straight relationships? There is a constant friction between the two as they rehearse the scenes wherein they portray a variety of roles: stepson/stepfather – gay mentor/protégé – uncle/mentally deficient nephew – alcoholic father/son and Latino dad/son.
Issues of abuse, abandonment, responsibility and control are faced head on – in English and Spanish. Back and forth between the play and the play within the play. Both actors do a remarkable job of making each character an individual but the writing is very predictable and we really do not get the time to be involved with any of them. Just as we are about to, the lights change and the music is cued and we are somewhere else again.
Thankfully the excellent music by Scott O’Brien and the lighting design by Michael Abrams help clarify the transitions. But director Chris Dolman does little to bring about anything remotely interesting up on the stage. Perhaps it’s the structure that doesn’t allow for us to get involved. Perhaps it’s just all those unhappy people.
Richard is a frustrated playwright never having made it big. This is his big chance and Edwin just might ruin it and he’ll have to go back teaching and coaching and writing not so great plays. Fathers & Sons seems like a therapeutic memoir on the part of Mr. Hoehler to help explain his own life. I hope he’s happier than the characters he has written about.
Tickets are $25.00. Approximately 90 minutes. No intermission.