Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Play House Cast Romps in "Father"

Cleveland Press December 22, 1966

As the father of four sons and one who sometimes finds the battle going about as well as Gen. Custer did at Little Big Horn, I think that I discovered last night how to turn the tide.

The idea, it seems, is to shout "damn" and "damnation" in stentorian tones at even the slightest provocation. And should heavenly intervention be needed the thing to do is look upward and utter a few simple and straightforward commands. Failing this, stamp your foot.

Ever since 1939 the most famous stage father of all, Clarence Day of "Life With Father," has been doing just those things with his four sons.

Now the Play House has chosen to revive this delightful classic in its Drury Theater and William Paterson, resplendent in red wig and mustache, is strutting and stamping and shouting in the most wonderful manner imaginable.

THIS, OF COURSE, IS A PATRIARCHAL Victorian family and though father is very much the head of it, mother manages to win in the end. 'Twas ever thus and nothing really changes.

First of all, she confuses the enemy with a form of illogical bookkeeping that would cause a modern computer to blow a fuse. That's what father does every time he goes over the monthly accounts. Then there's the ultimate weapon, undoubtedly developed by Eve against Adam and in use ever since -- tears.

THE PLAY IS A SERIES of loosely tied episodes held together by a single thread of complication. This is the discovery that father was never baptized, a condition which his wife sets about to remedy and which he fights off manfully, noisily and hopelessly. Right from the beginning, it's an uneven struggle.

Paterson's portrait of father is quite a bit more than mere noise and movement. There are many degrees of exasperation, and this actor seems to know them all.

Guest actress Mary Hopkins has returned for the role of mother. She is good but also very attractive and doesn't look as though she has lived with a tyrant for 20 years.

DAVID HEPPARD IS PROPERLY RESERVED and awkward as the eldest son. Dorothy Quinn has been cast as a relative, and her three sons -- Richard Jr., Douglas and Martin -- are the remaining three sons in the family. Only one of them has had stage experience, but there is little about scene stealing that all three do not know.

There was a scattering of youngsters in the audience opening night. This is healthy since the pap served them on television generally presents husbands and fathers as bumbling, bungling, put upon nitwits.

It's good for them to see one who is violent, irascible and sturdy.