Review: The Height of the Storm, starring Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce

September 24, 2019

In an interview, French playwright Florian Zeller said that "theatre is a place for questions, not answers." He certainly follows this philosophy in The Height of the Storm, about an aging couple, Madeline (Eileen Atkins) and André (Jonathan Pryce), half a century into their marriage. As the plot unfolds, one things becomes clear, and that is that the grief that is at the center of the story makes it a beautifully elusive story that is impossible to pin down on one topic. 

 

When we meet André, staring out a kitchen window, he looks as those he has been recently widowed and is unsure what to do with himself. Or is that really the case? When Madeline appears, she seems to be in the process of grieving as well, remembering how André asked her not to die before him. And sometimes they are together, wading through uncertainty as a unit, like have been for fifty years. 

 

Just when you think you might know what the fate of either Madeline of André could be, Zeller pulls the rug out from under you, leaving you keep guessing. With no defined answers, only numerous questions for the audience to ponder, Zeller's work is open for interpretation by anyone who sees it, as no one will likely view the play the same way as their neighbor. 

 

And while there are other characters present, notably the couple's daughters, Anna (Amanda Drew) and Élise (Lisa O'Hare), this show belongs to Atkins and Pryce as much as it belongs to Zeller. Their performances are beautifully moving, and create true connection on stage, not just with each other but also with Drew and O'Hare as their daughters. What Zeller has created is a play that asks the audience to listen closely, and allows them to enter the kitchen that is somewhere outside of Paris. And it's a privilege to get to witness what happens in that room. 

 

 

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