She She Wow Feb 1, 2013
by Erin Pike
Dads and daughters are a loaded subject-- love your dad and you're “daddy's girl,” love him less and you've got “daddy issues,” either way if you've got a pussy, your relationship or non-relationship with your father brands you for life, gets tossed around by bad therapists and brought up by lovers soon to be ex-.
But fuck that. That's not what this show is about.
As soon as the first father gets on stage and starts shooting air into his trumpet, I lose it, crying all over the place because it feels good and there is this old guy on stage I immediately brand as every complicated wise white male figure in my life ever (prematurely, I admit).
Because this show is exactly what you need it to be, for your heart and your childhood recollection and, jesus, age. We're all in the club of figuring out “age” and death and all that and really there's nothing like dramatic intergenerational discourse to get the ducts going, to get you thinking about shit like parents and burials and being alive and telling people you love them.
The premise is truly it: four performers and three fathers. Therein lies Testament's inevitable success. At the beginning, I go, “they're really doing this.” Ten minutes later, “that's actually that performer's dad.” Twenty, “my dad would never fucking do this.” Twenty-five, “that is so brave,” thirty, “(crying noises),” and on it goes.
Frankly, the Lear stuff is secondary for me. It is a nice grab at structure, but what strikes me more are the true, documentary-style bits about the process-- for example, at one point a Dad reads an email he sent his child, expressing disapproval of Testament and apprehension about being a part of it. Or, the moment when a Dad raises objections to an earlier performance the group had done, and slams its use of partial nudity. Personal moments like those are so effective that I wonder, “Why Lear at all?”
My favorite sequence I won't ruin for you, but it is ritual. It involves records and nostalgia. Tonight, the dads allow themselves to get a little hammy, looking into the live-feed camera with a slight wink, letting us know they are enjoying it. And these are not Stage Dads, mind you. These are just some Dads. But god, they must love their kids. And underneath the bits of special ham that come with any non-performer enjoying attention, there is something deep there. And just thinking about it now, about the project and the product, about those Dads, I start to get emotional again.