Review Roundup: Jonathan Pryce & Eileen Atkins Star In THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM - See What The Critics Are Saying!
Two legendary actors come together in one unforgettable story of a shared life and all of its complexities. Two-time Olivier and Tony Award winner Jonathan Pryce ("Game of Thrones", "The Two Popes", "The Wife", Miss Saigon) joins three-time Olivier Award winner Eileen Atkins ("The Crown", Doubt, The Retreat from Moscow, Indiscretions) to bring the acclaimed West End sensation by Florian Zeller, and translated by Christopher Hampton (MTC's The Father), to Broadway. For 50 years the lives of Andre and Madeleine have been filled with the everyday pleasures and unfathomable mysteries of an enduring marriage, until suddenly their life together begins to unravel, and this loving relationship is faced with the inevitability of change. Jonathan Kent (Long Day's Journey into Night) directs this thrilling production The Times of London declares "a deeply moving new play that takes us to the edge of what it is to love."
Let's see what the critics have to say...
Jesse Green, The New York Times: You have to admit that a playwright could do worse than creating a juicy acting exercise for treasurable actors in their 70s (Mr. Pryce) and 80s (Ms. Atkins). Does it matter so much that for all their skill - set off by Mr. Kent's exquisitely decorous Broadway staging - there's no there there? It does. Even if you accept that "The Height of the Storm" (as I wrote about "The Father") is more of a vehicle than a destination, you may eventually grow weary of being taken for a ride.
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: At its best, THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM, sensitively touches on the subject of surviving spouses of decades-long marriages reacting to permanent separation, be it by death or by mental deterioration. The two stars are quite touching together, and if the play sags as drama, it succeeds in showcasing a pair of brilliant stage actors.
Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Translated from the original French by Christopher Hampton and staged with commendable directness by Jonathan Kent, The Height of the Storm might seem merely a clever exercise were it not for its highly distinguished stars. In the flashier role, Pryce deftly navigates André's slippery landscape of paranoia, confusion, shame, loneliness and anger, while Atkins-like Madeleine-provides staunch, secure, unfussy support. If there is a picture to this puzzle after all, it is the portrait of a marriage that stretches on till death do them part and beyond.
Thom Geier, TheWrap: Zeller's play, expertly translated by Christopher Hampton, continually leaves us as disoriented as André himself - "People who try to understand things are morons," he says at one point - and the accumulation of contradictions is both unsettling and deeply moving. That is particularly true in the gut-check final scene, brilliantly lit by Hugh Vanstone, which is haunting in every sense of the word.
Matt Windman, amNY: "The Height of the Storm" is essentially a fuzzier, opaque reworking of Zeller's "The Father," which also depicted an elderly man named André (then played by Frank Langella) suffering from severe dementia in an intense and jarring manner. The principal difference is that "The Height of the Storm," in taking on a jumbled structure and always trying to play games with the audience, feels thin, repetitive and too conceptual.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The slender plot, such as it is, involves the usual crises following the death of a parent. Do we sell the house? What's to become of Dad and/or Mom? How can we salvage Dad's valuable unpublished work? Who's going to take all these books? These are some of the questions pondered by the couple's two grown children, loving Anne (Amanda Drew) and self-centered Elise (Lisa O'Hare). They are, of course, the eternal questions whenever a parent dies, and these two siblings are no better equipped to deal with them than any of the rest of us. But if we learn nothing about bearing up under grief from these hapless sisters, we can still treasure two superb performances from two great actors.
Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: The Height of the Storm is a puzzle built on cobwebs, with a couple of puzzle-pieces purposely missing (or perhaps several pieces too many). This allows Zeller's play, like The Father, to succeed on its own terms, sending you out into the night (after eighty-odd minutes with no intermission) talking, thinking, considering and-yes-puzzling over the affair. But in any case, fully and totally engaged.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: The play is at its best at its most meditative-the calm during the Storm, if you will. André, achieving an ever-so-brief moment of lucidity with Anne: "You know, as time goes by, You see things in a different light. What once seemed important to us suddenly becomes trivial." Or Madeleine, enjoying the silence after their daughters have departed: "It's nice of them to come and see us... But after two days, I've had enough of it. Don't you think?" A few more of those moody, mushroom-peeling moments would not have been unwelcome.
Joe Dziemianowicz, Theater News Online: Pryce mines every ounce of Andre's vulnerability, confusion and anger. Atkins is crisp and surprisingly amusing - and with the slightest narrowing of her eyes speaks volumes. Together they are persuasive as a couple who've shared half a century together. In the end, Zeller's work leaves more questions than answers. We never know what Andre is looking at. But there's no doubt that what audiences sees throughout this Storm are these two bright stars at the height of their powers.
Jeremy Gerard, Theater News Online: And while The Father cast us on a rocky, battering shore with one disintegrating character brilliantly played by Frank Langella, Storm offers two unfathomably deep, indelibly collaborative performances, by Jonathan Pryce as André, a celebrated novelist settled into arch irrelevance, and Eileen Atkins as Madeleine, the unshakeable garden-loving wife who promised to outlive him.
David Cote, Theatre News Online: Jonathan Kent's handsomely designed and solidly acted production can't overcome the inherent banality and inertia of Zeller's pallid script, which ultimately resolves into widower porn. André finds a card of condolence that came with flowers introduced in the first scene and, finally, his sad situation becomes clear to him (and us, assuming we're still awake). His love lost but still sitting spookily beside him, our writer frets in his tasteful kitchen (picturesquely designed by Anthony Ward).
Greg Evans, Deadline: "Haunting" is a word critics overuse, but sometimes nothing else will do. Still, I'll do my best to avoid it - after this review of The Height of the Storm, the thoughtful and engrossing new play by Florian Zeller, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, opening tonight at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: The merciless forces of dementia, anxiety and depression, respectively, torment the protagonists of Florian Zeller's family trilogy, The Father, The Mother and The Son, intricate dramatic puzzles in which the French playwright deftly drops the audience inside the confusion of his characters' heads. All those states of psychological distress exert their cruel influence in The Height of the Storm. If the author's bag of tricks is becoming familiar and the wispy drama is too fragmented to be fully satisfying, the commanding performances of Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins and the meticulous direction of Jonathan Kent nonetheless make this an affecting elegy.
Sara Holdren, Vulture: In some ways, the delicacy of The Height of the Storm is its strength - in the opportunity it offers for powerful actors to work with small brushes, and in the notable and refreshing absence of rage and resentment from its central characters. But this gauziness of tone also keeps the play from feeling intellectually or emotionally filling. It feels, to use the French, like an étude - a chance for performers to play briefly, and at times movingly, on certain themes, but without much ultimate sense of consequence.
Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: The Height of the Storm is written by Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton. Most recently in New York, we saw Zeller-translated-by-Hampton's The Mother, starring Isabelle Huppert, and in that-just as here-a blur of time and perspectives adds a general sense of bafflement to the drama on stage.
Max McGuinness, Financial Times: The play itself nonetheless seems underwhelming. As in The Father, Zeller uses skewed chronology and elliptical patterns of dialogue, which are an effective means of conveying André's mental dislocation. But once we've twigged what underlies those devices, the effect becomes one-dimensional. He also sets the audience a narrative puzzle about the relationship between André and Madeleine that is too easily resolved. Rather than capture the true messiness of mental breakdown, The Height of the Storm ends up feeling a bit neat.