SUNDAY FATHER by Adam Pettle, directed by David Storch, with Jordan Pettle, Ari Cohen and Liisa Repo-Martell. Presented by CanStage at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to February 15, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm and Saturday 2 pm. $20-$49. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNN
Playwright Adam Pettle knows what makes brothers tick. And fight. His latest work, Sunday Father, taps right into the heart of a pair of brothers whose Cain-and-Abel-ness lurks beneath their love for each other.
Sportswriter Jed (Jordan Pettle) and lawyer Alan (Ari Cohen) have turned to each other for years -- since their father left the family and remarried, when the two were youngsters -- for help and comfort. Back then they recorded comic mini-routines on tape; now they have to deal with adult problems like a marriage breakup (hurt Jed) and work difficulties (wisecracking Alan) that involve their demanding dad.
Pettle has become expert at switching from laughs to gripping tension in seconds. Director David Storch just as quickly shifts the moods, as when Jed and his partner, Amy (Liisa Repo-Martell, bringing great compassion to a character who doesn't have much stage time), fight over custody of their son yet clearly still feel deep affection for each other.
But this is a piece whose central theme is fathers and sons -- three generations' worth. The two stage brothers push the right buttons, convincing us of the emotional reality and the effect of figures who never appear onstage. They can argue about the relative virtues of Betty and Veronica, kvetch about playing in a B'nai Brith baseball league and explode with sibling jealousy, but ultimately they know they can count on each other. And that affection, that warmth, illuminates this fine script and production.