Sunday Father

Adam Pettle

Hampstead Theatre

(2003)

Review by Philip Fisher

We may not see Sam, a terrifying Jewish legal patriarch, but he overshadows all of the action in the British Premiere of Canadian Adam Pettle's work.

His two sons, Jed (Dan Fredenburgh) and Alan (Corey Johnson) are overwhelmed by their father and have a double imperative to escape and inevitably to follow him.

The play mixes contemporary action and the voices of the pair as children. This enables Pettle to show that the stories of Sam's desertion of his wife and the marital break-ups of his two sons are often similar.

The play focuses on the collapse of Jed's marriage when he discovers that his wife, the non-Jewish psychologist Amy (Raquel Cassidy), is sleeping with an old flame. This wrecks Jed, the son who has escaped Dad's legal practice and become a sportswriter.

Inevitably, Jed's relationship with his four year old son suffers and this is compared with what happened to Jed and Alan when Sam flew the coop for glamorous Sheila. Sadly, she has not worn well and now "has no face left to lift".

Alan, a loud, divorced serial pursuer of young women, is a carbon copy of his father and inevitably they fight incessantly in both the legal business and life.

When Sam dies, this has an initial devastating effect on his sons but ultimately frees them to start living their own lives. In an unexpected twist after Alan's Reggie Perrin-like disappearance, it seems that for Jed at least, this might be happily ever after.

Pettle mixes these stories with biblical and mythical history, at different stages drawing parallels with Zeus, Cain and Abel and Pandora without fully integrating them into his own story of commonplace folk.

The characters tend towards cliché in both word and action and while some may identify with their woes, it can be hard to sympathise.