“What time is it?,” a retired engineer named André asks throughout The Father. Answer: late. And getting dark. André is losing his mind, and won’t admit it. Who would? This exceptional French play, by Florian Zeller (translated by Christopher Hampton, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through June 12), exacts a toll on us. It gets into the core of our frailty, and scrapes.

André, played with devastating fluidity by Frank Langella in one of the season’s outstanding stage performances, begins the play demanding that his daughter Anne (Kathryn Erbe) fire his cleaner, who he thinks has stolen his watch. In fact, he has hidden the watch and forgotten the act of hiding. It’s an apposite metaphor for the insidious practical...


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