"You are not going to believe this," my mother said, and she was right. "Shooting Star," a play written by my father, Basil Thomas, which ran in London's West End 50 years ago, was to be revived by the Gateway Theatre in Chester, England. And so began a journey over many miles, many years, nostalgia and tears.

I never saw my father's plays performed. He died when I was very young and the light comedies he wrote in the 1940s and 1950s went out of fashion when well-made plays with large casts and several sets gave way to kitchen sink dramas written by Angry Young Men.

With reservations in hand, doubts set in. Here I was, some 40 years after his death, about to encounter the first man I loved in a way that fate had previously denied me. What I remember of my father is sparse. I have no idea, for instance, how tall he was. I think of him as a giant but in fact he was probably 5 feet 9 and trim. His voice I can hear by listening to a tape he and I made of nonsense rhymes. And although, when asked to write his biography for the program, I had to look up the year of his birth and the date of his death, I remember vividly one of our last conversations. It was about "reforestation," not the business of replacing trees with more trees but the etymology of the word. He used language the way a magician uses sleight-of-hand tricks.

What happens, I thought, if I hate the play? What happens if it is dated? What happens if my husband, Dan, looks at his watch every few minutes? What happens if . . . and the list went on. And why did it matter? I see approximately 50 plays a year and review about half that number, but this was different. Was my father a craftsman or a hack? I was about to find out and my pride was at stake. No longer was I just an observer out for an evening's entertainment or a journalist scribbling notes. By crossing, psychologically, to the other side of the footlights, I became a participant in the ephemeral art of theater.

Photos from the production and some reviews were posted outside the theater. We took our seats. The set startled me because it looked like a re-creation of my father's office and I half expected to see myself as a little girl sitting on the floor leafing through Spotlight, a directory of actors' head shots and biographies.

Nervous, I broke out in a cold sweat. Now I know how actors, directors, indeed playwrights must feel: exposed and vulnerable.

The unanimously favorable reviews were right. "Shooting Star," a comedy about soccer, is witty and charming. Its values of integrity versus commercialism are as decent and as valid today as they were half a century ago. The source of laughter -- the ironies of the plot -- passed nimbly from player to player with the alacrity of a soccer ball at a World Cup game. The audience loved it and so did I. The adult I now am had finally met the man of the theater my father was and as the actors made their bows I applauded for him as well as for them.

Afterward, we had drinks with the cast of 10, who thanked me for coming while I thanked them for doing their jobs so well. Later, as I lay in bed, my feelings ranged from elation to deep sadness. What talent my father had, what dialogues we could have shared, what a tragedy he died so young.

The next day we had lunch with Deborah Shaw, the artistic director whose idea it was to do the revival. Over coffee she asked why did he do it, referring to my father's suicide at the age of 44. I answered as honestly as I am able: An imbalance in his body chemistry led to a severe and irreversible depression. Today he would have been given medication. Forty years ago, when I was a child, I was forbidden to speak about it truthfully because his disease was considered shameful and suicide a disgrace.

My father's ashes lie on the perimeter of London's Liberal Jewish Cemetery, ostracized because of the Jewish doctrines that cremation is not acceptable and the taking of one's own life, murder. A beautiful rose garden near the gravestone gives me solace and by the time I leave the cemetery, I have persuaded myself to stop fretting over the letter "i" missing from my father's first name -- a not inappropriate symbol for a self-effacing man.

Later in the week we lunch with Frith Banbury, 86 now and the grand old man of London theater. He has directed "Shooting Star" twice -- the original production 50 years ago and the revival in Chester, this spring. As we leave, Frith, looking up, says: "See, Basil, Susan and I are here together" and I thought, what an exit line! Bring down the curtain. This drama is now ended and I will evade the truth no more. Susan Davidson is arts editor of Washingtonian magazine.