ON STAGE

An occasional update of New York theater openings

* The Father - (Roundabout Theatre Company at Criterion Center): Frank Langella gives one of the season's most riveting performances in this Broadway revival of August Strindberg's searing drama. Written in 1887 and considered a classic of modern drama because of the intensity of its psychological profiles, ''The Father'' depicts a tortured and violent relationship between a man and a woman. Langella plays a military officer who is steadily becoming unhinged through the idea that he may not be the father of his wife's child. Langella offers a brutal and volcanic performance that is sure to reap attention at New York theater-award time.

* The Makropulos Case - (At the Metropolitan Opera): This is the first time the Met has presented Leos Janacek's 1925 opera based on a play by Karel Capek. The production got off to a bad start, with the first performance canceled because of an onstage death and the second because of a blizzard. Jessye Norman stars as a diva-like opera singer who has lived to be 337 years old, thanks to a secret formula. Both Janacek's music and his libretto are more than a little complex and challenging, but Norman gives a powerful vocal performance and the piece has been given a wonderfully theatrical production by Elijah Moshinsky.

* 20th Century Pop

(At the Rainbow & Stars): A new musical revue at one of New York's most elegant nightspots, with an unlikely cast: Marianne Faithfull, Darlene Love, and Merry Clayton. The trio perform nearly two-dozen classic songs, some of them their own hits, which include ''He's a Rebel'' (Love), ''As Tears Go By'' (Faithfull), and ''Gimme Shelter'' (Clayton sang on the original Rolling Stones recording). Although there is something disconcerting in watching Faithfull sing chirpy pop ditties (is this really the performer of such harrowing rock songs as ''Broken English''?), she does bring some edge to the evening with songs like ''Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,'' and the show has enough energy and good humor to offset any such reservations.

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