The Theatreguide.London Review
Hampstead Theatre Spring 2022
Alexis Zegerman’s play, The Fever Syndrome, directed by Roxana Silbert, sits very consciously in a tradition of American family dramas.
Writing about the metaphor of the title, the author says that it refers to where the ‘immune system … attacks itself. This references the fractiousness of the family and the individuals within it.’
You might catch a line that echoes something in an Arthur Miller play about a troubled family and Edward Albee even gets a mention.
But where Miller’s drama often exposed the corrupting impossibility of the American Dream and Albee’s pointed to the dehumanising impact of that society, Zegerman prefers to simply parade a fractiousness without a purpose beyond the observation that it happens to families who love each other anyway.
It’s not that the author doesn't signal piles of stuff that might have been explored as drama. Every character is given a troubling flaw and a motivating impulse that clashes with others but only to the extent of keeping the fast intelligent dialogue moving helter-skelter to its happy ending.
All this is not to say our lively American family gathering to celebrate an award for their father Professor Richard Myer isn't worth a watch or a listen. There are lines you may take away and quote to friends.
One that had many of us laughing came from Myer, who being a bit of a grumpy liberal dying of Parkinson’s disease, tells his family I want to be cremated and my ashes thrown in the faces of the GOP.’ (the Republican Party)
Robert Lindsay in a brilliant performance as Myer is never short of sparkling things to say and the truth is, all the performances are impressive.
The set with its dolls house collection of six rooms and several corridors is a miracle of design you might sit long admiring, and the smooth frequent scene changes allow you to imagine this play as practically cinematic in its fluidity.
Yet something is missing in all this, some purpose beyond flashing at us the mechanics of play/filmmaking, a flashing that is at times so obvious, it might have you shaking your head.
This play won’t set your heart on fire, but it passes the time amiably enough, even as you wish it had something significant to say about the world.
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