A New York Theatre Guide to... The Height of the Storm!
The American premiere of The Height of the Storm continues its limited Broadway engagement through November 24, 2019.
French Playwright Florian Zeller has made quite the splash on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years. Translated by Christopher Hampton, his plays have been among the most thought-provoking and emotionally charged pieces of new drama seen by audiences in the West End and on Broadway. Having produced his 2016 Tony-nominated play The Father, Manhattan Theatre Club now presents the Broadway transfer of The Height of the Storm, directed by Jonathan Kent, which began previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on September 10, 2019, ahead of an official opening on September 24.
What’s it all about?
The Height of the Storm centers around a married couple in their twilight years. Madeleine and André have been married for 50 years. They have two daughters, Anne and Elise, and a shared history that has both its secrets and its capacity for unconditional love. Zeller writes in a way that keeps the audience guessing. Alternate realities intertwine and interact with each other and past memories collide with the present in this poetically written drama. We are left to interpret ourselves which on stage characters are actually present as we experience the profound impact of the loss of one partner on the other and a tear-jerking, yet deeply hopeful climax to the production.
Who’s starring in it?
Leading the cast of The Height of the Storm are two members of acting royalty, with two-time Tony and Olivier Award winner Jonathan Pryce taking on the role of André and three-time Olivier Award winner and four-time Tony Award nominee Dame Eileen Atkins starring as Madeleine. Pryce, who was last seen on Broadway over a decade ago in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, shot to Broadway superstardom following his Tony-winning performance as The Engineer in Miss Saigon. He is also known to a wider audience for his TV role as The High Sparrow in HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones,” and his various film roles in the likes of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Evita,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The Wife,” and Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchize. Atkins recently starred as Queen Mary in the hit Netflix series “The Crown,” and has enjoyed a widely celebrated career on both the stage and screen, boasting notable credits such as “Cranford,” “Vanity Fair,” “Cold Mountain,” and “Gosford Park.”
What’s special about this production?
Although it may sound cliché, it is truly a privilege to see such accomplished veterans as Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins together on stage and in such an intimate Broadway venue. The onstage chemistry of these two acting greats is worth the price of a ticket alone, and yet, the supporting cast all have their moment to shine in Zeller’s script. In this respect, The Height of the Storm could be described as both a star vehicle and a nuanced ensemble piece. And kudos to lighting designer Hugh Vanstone who is an essential player in us understanding the narrative of the play. I’m not sure if I’ve ever attended a play where the lighting changes were such an integral part of driving the plot and executed so atmospherically.
The strength of The Height of the Storm is in its acting, but the subtle appeal is in its ambiguity. This is a production that demands our attention, catches us off-guard and, ultimately, holds us tightly like a loved one, refusing to let go.
Who would we recommend it to?
Obviously, this is a great opportunity for fans of “Game of Thrones” and “The Crown” to see two of their screen idols tread the boards up close and personal, but The Height of the Storm is also a perfect match for couples, who might also find themselves in their twilight years. Or, if you are looking to treat a parent or loved one, then we can assure you that you will leave the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre gripping them even tighter than you did when you first entered!
Check out our New York Theatre VIDEO Guide to The Height of the Storm here...
The Height of the Storm Tickets are available now for performances through November 24, 2019.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)