I Never Sang for My Father Review – Fathers and Sons

Paul Buxton, Cheyann Dillon, Becky Bonar, and Dana Kelly Jr. in I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER - Photo by David List
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Award-winning playwright/screenwriter/producer Robert Anderson wrote extensively for motion pictures, theater, radio, and television. He had a special knack for touching the heart with his pieces, including plays and films like “Tea and Sympathy,” “The Nun’s Story,” and “Sand Pebbles.” One of his poignant tales – which many feel might be autobiographical – was I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER, with his film adaptation of the play winning the Writers’ Guild of American Award in 1970. I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER has been successfully revived many times in the past 50 years – and it remains a timely and moving story which has stood the test of time.

Becky Bonar, Dana Kelly Jr. , and Shayne Anderson – Photo by David List

Widowed college professor Gene Garrison (Shayne Anderson) adores his gentle but realistic mother Margaret (Becky Bonar); but, try as he might, he cannot dredge up any love for his father Tom (Dana Kelly Jr.)  A cold, narcissistic, emotionally distant and abusive man, Tom Garrison was the original “rags-to-riches” Horatio Alger clone who began life with nothing and became a respected and successful business titan and finally mayor in his community. Yes, Gene certainly respects his father for his monumental accomplishments – but love? Nonetheless, Gene is a dutiful son who has taken on full responsibility for his aging parents since his father disowned his daughter Allice (Mary Carrig) years earlier for marrying a Jew.  

Shayne Anderson and Becky Bonar – Photo by David List

Margaret and Tom have just returned from a trip to Florida and are settling in back home when – unexpectedly – his mother dies. What to do about his father, a man who rejects help and denies the presence of significantly failing memory and increasing physical limitations? A penurious senior who tries to cut costs for his devoted wife’s funeral and refuses to acknowledge his daughter – even when she comes to help the family in crisis. And what of Gene’s dreams for the future? He had planned to marry his fiancée Peggy and move to California to live with her and her young sons. But Tom refuses to leave the family home and rejects every plan Gene and Alice devise to assist him. What now?

Dana Kelly Jr. and Shayne Anderson – Photo by David List

Director Doug Kaback does a superb job of helming the production, which was initially scheduled for presentation over two years ago at a different venue. To quote Kaback: “”The production of this play…was originally intended to perform in March 2020 but was not able to open due to Covid-19. It is a wonderful testament to the devotion and commitment of the artists involved that we have persevered to bring to life this play about (the) real-life challenges… regarding the role that we play as adult children caring for our aging parents.” Kaback is ably assisted by a talented cast who manage to dig in and present a middle class American family – warts and all – living dead center in a real-life quandary. Kudos to Anderson and Kelly, who bring the father/son duo to honest but often painful life. Set designer Cesar Relana-Holguin cleverly makes the simple set completely flexible; sound/image designer William Kwon, lighting designer Brie Mann-Hernandez, and costume designer Michael Mullen add immeasurably to the production.

I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER is a timely and moving story taken from real life – a story that many of us have lived through or foresee coming up in the future. The weighty tale will resonate with audiences as powerful, intense, and thought-provoking – yet also entertaining. This is a must-see production.

I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER runs through October 23, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Theater That Matters Company performs at the Two Roads Theatre, located at 4348 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604. Tickets are $25 (students $20). For information and reservations, go online.


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