The thing I like the most about Mitch Fienstien’s plays – I have seen his work before and there is plenty to like – is that he writes like a writer, not a performer. He is a fine actor of course and he brings to life every character in this story with loving detail and acrobatic character shifts. But it’s not at all performative. Nothing showy or flashy or eager to please. Some solo shows work perfectly well in that fashion. They are suited to the glitz and the wink and the shimmer.
But this story about his life and, more specifically, about his father, has a far more novelistic narrative. It’s more cerebral and anecdotal and full of lush memories with sepia overtones and wonderfully rich details.
It’s like the difference between Baz Luhrmann and Martin Scorsese. Both are wonderful, but Scorsese is the master of American life in all its nuance and struggle and gentle or not familiarity. Baz is show.
My Father’s Eyes is the story of Mitch’s father, his life and how he shaped Mitch. The memories that fill the stage are tenderly picked, reverential, moving.
They depict a time when things seemed simpler and more specific. You work, you get married, you have kids, you work some more and you get old. What changed? Everything and nothing.
Mitch masterfully molds the world we see. As he unfolds the purpose of this lovely piece, showing us little by little the man his father was and how he loved him I felt the pangs of my own dearly missed dad. He connected me to him again through his own journey. In sweetly reconstructing the legends of his family and his parents and his younger self he lifts the veil of our own. There’s a profound skill to that. To sharing your own world with another in such a way that they are transported through yours and into their own long ago memories of love.
Mitch shows us a childhood of another time entirely. A time of some struggle, but also a time of innocence, hard work, deep respect, playfulness and love, lots of love.
My Father’s Eyes is a nuanced and finely crafted history of Mitch and his father. Of course the moments are hand picked, drawn together to create a play, but they are also very real and truthful and beautifully authentic.
To be allowed to see into another’s past, their favorite pieces of their past, it is a very special gift and not one to be taken lightly. It’s an honor to be invited in, if only for an hour or so and I was delighted for the privilege.