The Height of The Storm Reviews
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Great Acting Exercise
Florian Zeller, the French playwright of The Height of the Storm excels in inuendo because as Andre (Jonathan Pryce) states, “People who try to understand things are morons.” Pryce is a roaring, selfish literary lion. Eileen Atkins plays Madeleine, his wife of 50 years, the glue that keeps the couple together. The plot intimates that someone has died with the delivery of an anonymous bouquet of flowers. Anne (Amanda Drew) searches for a card and a vase as she appears to get André’s papers and journals ready for posthumous publication. It is Madeleine’s appearance with mushrooms and gossip from shopping that makes the audience wonder whether Andre is hallucinating his late wife’s image. Another daughter, Élise (Lisa O’Hare) shows up seemingly after the funeral services. To add to the ambiguity, The Woman (Lucy Cohu) could be Andre’s longtime former lover who bore him a son that Andre has never acknowledged. This wrinkle adds to the climax of the storm and possible unraveling of a perfect relationship. The parents’ marriage is in stark contrast to Elise’s series of lovers and Anne’s dissolving marital bonds. The Woman could also be a representative of the Blue House, a nursing home for which Andre’s daughters are preparing him. Add The Man, Elise’s latest paramour Paul, a real estate agent who visits the house to meet Andre and look over a prospective sale. Yet another hint to the convoluted plot is the story of a couple who go to the same hotel in which they honeymooned to take poison mushrooms in a suicide pact. This is the same hotel coincidentally that Andre and Madeleine spent their honeymoon. The plot line remains unsolvable even with the lighting blotting out Madeleine in the final scene. Mr. Pryce, aged 72, and Ms. Atkins, aged 85, are extraordinary in their roles. Mr. Pryce’s tremors make him pathetic, frightened, and agitated but always transparent. Ms. Atkins doesn’t shake. She’s not transparent, either. Madeleine is a mother who does not comfort her offspring unlike their father. In fact, she tells Anne in no uncertain terms not to meddle in their lives and finds it a relief when both girls leave the house. This exquisite acting exercise does not compensate for the unanswerable questions in the script. As my husband noted, there were no big themes that were not done more satisfyingly in other plays dealing with infidelity, aging, loss of memory, and impending death.
Written on November, 13th 2019
In Pursuit of Reality
In the Height of the Storm deals with death of a partner, lessening of mental faculties and a partners frailty. It is not always clear what is real ... or is it all real within Andre? Facing death is not an easy journey but these actors, capture all the pain and joy with grace. You are on the journey with them. And you reflect on it often afterwards.
Written on October, 2nd 2019