Strindberg’s play The Father (1887) offers a proto-Freudian explanation of the unreasonable hatred that can exist between husbands and wives. A free-thinking army captain and scientist would have his daughter educated to be a teacher, while his wife would have her become a painter. The wife manipulates the town pastor (who happens to be her stepbrother) and the newly arrived town doctor for her purposes, using her erotic influence over the doctor and her readiness to claim that the family lawyer is her child’s father. Ultimately, she drives her husband into the arms of his old trusted nurse, who straitjackets him.
Audiences tend to side with either the captain or his wife. The captain’s insistence on “male prerogatives” makes it seem at times that his wife’s scheming brings him his just deserts. At other times, he seems a tragic victim of a diabolical female who, in the course of the play, is even told by the pastor and the doctor that she is a monster. Present-day audiences can’t help switching sides back and forth in watching this play, and Robert Greer’s translation does not steer us toward either conclusion.
This translation was staged by August Strindberg Rep last season as a work-in-progress. Theater for the New City’s DreamUp Festival, now in its tenth year, is presenting the finished version of the piece as part of its commitment to new translations, seeing them as an important segment of new works and because the “edgy” nature of Strindberg’s plays makes them fit nicely into the Festival’s commitment to “works that push new ideas to the forefront, challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of how art illuminates the world around us.”
Performances: August 27 at 9:00 PM, August 28 at 6:30 PM, September 1 at 2:00 PM, September 2 at 9:00 PM at THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY, 155 First Ave. (between 9th & 10th Streets).