An emotional journey in “The Height of the Storm”

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An emotional journey in "The Height of the Storm"

It’s an all too familiar story. An elderly parent mourns the loss of a lifelong partner, living in the past, confused and angry.

Adult children desperately try to make life all right again for the spouse left behind, busying themselves with details, compelled to swallow their unbounded grief for the profound loss of their parent.

A big house, filled with memories, situations and voices echo about the house, with the strong presence of the deceased parent.

That is the setting  of “The Height of the Storm” written by Florian Zeller, outlined in heartbreaking detail.

“The Height of the Storm” stars Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins, perfect and comfortable in their demanding husband and wife roles. He, the tempestuous author, enveloped by books and his writing, she the efficient, wise backbone of the family surrounded by fresh produce, specifically mushrooms.

Zeller employs a fascinating convention, weaving real time conversations that took place in the past and in the present with both mother and father (one of whom is dead) along with their daughters, the boyfriend of the younger daughter and a mysterious woman. At first you truly wonder if either parent is dead, and if so, which one? Then you consider that maybe these conversations from different times and planes are the manifestation of dementia, causing  confusion about what is actually going on. No matter what the reality is, it is almost immaterial. The subtle nature of what is truly happening is almost an afterthought. The intense beauty of this play is what is at the seed of the heartbreak. A couple, tied together through decades, inextricably linked, must part when one leaves the earth. It is a profound experience and just so devastatingly sad. This is a story that the baby boomer generation dealing with elderly parents knows all too well. Beautifully directed by Jonathan Kent, “The Height of the Storm” plays through Nov. 24.


Hear Valerie talk about “The Height of the Storm” and other theatre and food oriented topics, along with conversations and information on “Bagels and Broadway with Valerie Smaldone”

Saturday morning 9-10 AM on WNYM radio, online, podcast and Alexa.

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