From Iceland — Divine Fathers and Their Daughters

Divine Fathers and Their Daughters

Divine Fathers and Their Daughters

Published December 3, 2004

Sympathetic and arrogant
Director Agnar Jón Egilsson has brought the play to life by coaxing very aggressively stylized performances out of his four actors. Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir, Elma Lísa Gunnarsdóttir and Þrúður Vilhjálmsdóttir portray their characters, Rakel, Rut and Rebekka, with a controlled energy hidden just behind their stylized and posed gestures. The sisters seem bursting with an urgency that belies their very controlled public personas, and that surges out when faced with their father’s death. Hjálmar Hjálmarsson as Tómas, the father, offers a charismatic and for the most part sympathetic portrayal of an arrogant and powerful man seemingly unaware of the emotional legacy he is leaving his daughters. Each of the four actors plays in addition a second character, executing seamless transitions between the personas with minimal use of costumes and props.
The play is staged on the main floor of the hall at Iðnó, with the audience seated in comfortable padded chairs along two sides of the room and upon the stage. Props in the form of a leather easy chair, three wheeled divans and four wheeled carts are stationed among the audience and moved as needed around the open central floor space. Actors not active in scenes sit or stand near the audience actively watching the play transpire. This inspired set-up levels the relationship between the audience and the performance, inviting the viewer to identify more intimately with this particular version of a modern Icelandic family. The theater space is extrememly well employed, although the use of the door that opens into the Iðnó kitchen is mildly disruptive. Jón Þorgeir Kristjánsson’s lighting is subtle and elegant with smooth transitions between scenes, and flashbacks are announced with an understated strobe sequence accompanied by suggestive sound cues, all very effective.
The darker aspects of family life
Special kudos go to Hallur Ingólfsson for his music, a beat-driven series of songs that underscore the throbbing energy barely contained within the characters. Along with Jóhann Freyr Björgvinsson’s choreography, the music sequences help define the characters’ relationships to each other outside of the scripted text. In fact, these sequences, so effective and important during the first half of the play, were sorely missed as a means of closure toward the production’s end.
Faðir Vor, or Our Father, is a well-acted, directed and designed play that exposes the darker aspects of family life. The playwright invites the audience to peer into the souls of her characters, but there is little resolution. The girls are opened up, exposed as adult children of an overwhelming and flawed father, given very adult problems and are left splayed and in shock at the play’s end, each carrying very obvious baggage as a legacy of their father’s love. The sisters manage to tear down the false idol that is their father, but tear themselves apart in the process, and, barely healed at the end of the play, they exit stage, leaving behind a question as to why.

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