Father of Lies
nytheatre.com review by Bixby Elliot
July 8, 2010
Obedience. This is the word that dominates Father of Lies, Jose Zayas's intriguing, powerful, and moody adaptation of Brian Evenson's novel, currently showing as part of the undergroundzero festival at P.S. 122. Based on real events, the play explores a priest and his sexual obsession with young children and the Mormon Church's cover-up. Through this story Father of Lies takes a hard look at the ways in which blind obedience can lead to corruption and destruction.
As the play opens we meet Brother Fochs (the choice of name is not accidental), a fresh faced missionary of the church obediently carrying out the duties of his elders and his Lord. There are, however, many problems: accusations from church members of molestation, a dead teenage girl, a suspicious wife, horrific nightmares, and that increasingly present voice inside of his head. As Brother Fochs's life spirals out of control, Father of Lies travels down a road that is littered with death and devastation towards a gruesome conclusion.
Zayas, taking on both directing and adapting roles here, does an excellent job of creating a tense and taut world. Part horror story, part church cover-up/expose, part emotional investigation of one man's secret life, balances all these elements to create an engrossing evening at the theatre. An able cast brings the piece to life. Evan Enderle as Fochs comes straight from central casting and perfectly fits the "all-American, young Jimmy Stewart" type (or should I say "young Mitt Romney" type), but he displays great depth as his character's behaviors become more dreadful and shocking. As the dutiful wife struggling to hold together a marriage busting apart, Jocelyn Kuritsky does a lovely job with some difficult material. A scene in which she is trapped in a car with her husband late in the play provides her with a moment to shine. Playing a number of small roles, Jessica Pohly captivated me with her shape-shifting abilities and her droll sense of delivery. Nearly unrecognizable from one character to the other, Pohly has a flair for making a big impression with only a few lines and a hair clip.
I did take issue with some of the design elements. I understand the need to create atmosphere and mood, but I do prefer a bit more light on stage. I felt that a great deal of the action was presented in shadow. However, I might also attribute this to the limitations of a festival that is presenting a large number of shows in tight rotation. Jillian Tully's costumes lack a sense of purpose. Matt Tennie's audiovisual design was, however, a highlight for me. The use of amplification created, at times, a spooky/otherworldly feeling for the piece. I also enjoyed the dissonant sound cues that contributed to the overall audio landscape of the play.
Father of Lies is not what I would call a breezy/fun night at the theatre. It is challenging and, at times, harrowing material. However, given the recent scandals with the Catholic Church, sexual molestation within religion is certainly topical and a subject that begs to be explored. There are not a lot of laughs to be had here and much of the graphic content may be difficult to handle (not suitable for children), but there are many rewards for spending 90 minutes with Father of Lies. But, as the play instructs, you shouldn't just "obey" my review—check it out for yourself and find out what you believe.