Theater and Concert Reviews.
by ROBERT MASSIMI 2 years ago in REVIEW Theater Review Few plays make you think about and debate a play the way Daniel's Husband does. The play is set at Daniel Bixby (Ryan Spahn) and Mitchell Howard's (Matthew Montelongo) home. It focuses on gay marriage, but it is much, much more than that. The premise is five main characters... Mitchell and Daniel, Mitchell's agent Barry, Barry's newest love interest, Trip, and Daniel's mother, Lydia (Anna Holbrook). Michael McKeever the Playwright gives us the obvious, but he gives us the not so obvious that hits us one way or the other. Who is really selfish? Who is willing to give a little? What character will we side with?
Daniel's Husband is well written. The subconscious runs wild here. McKeever has us pitted, taking sides in this play. Do we agree with Daniel's mother or do we like Mitchell better? Would we prefer Barry's easy lifestyle to theirs? Is Trip (Leland Wheeler), the brilliantly acted love interest to Barry (Lou Liberatore), the most genuine of all the people we are faced with in this play? Did the mother cause Daniel to be the way he is, or did his father cause some damage as well?
What starts out as Daniel wanting to be married to Mitchell and Mitchell's resistance to the idea&mash;living together for seven years is fine with him&mash;Daniel pushes the subject hard. This triggers Mitchell going off on a tirade about marriage and Madison Avenue. The differences are evident but McKeever does not overkill the topic. Under industrial lighting, Jeff Croiter lets the room ooze into us. This lets Joe Brancato direct an easy going, touchy feely type of play that works well in a 90 minute intermission, less well crafted play.
The banter at times seems a little too scripted as the four men compare boxers to briefs and other sophomoric comparisons. Another scripted example was the creme brulee served at a Mormon picnic. Barry, Daniel, and Mitchell have a genuine liking for one another and Trip is along for the ride. Trip is painted as a young airhead, but has a good heart and good intentions in a cruel world. His talking about his life, the loss of his parents and his caring for his grandmother make him a likable character. The way Wheeler moves on stage, his timing makes Trip a standout.
Brancato directs Lydia Bixby extremely well. Without the right amount of her assertiveness, this play would not have worked as well. Lydia says her piece and it is left at that. She is a social butterfly and image is everything. She is supportive of her relationship to Mitchell and she loves them both. She is as selfish as everyone in the room and we pick our favorites. Some will hate her; some will like her and support her in what happens halfway through the show. What happens is not so much Daniel's incapacitation, but the fight that ensues.
Left with only hope and memories, McKeever has Mitchell and Lydia at odds with one another and the stakes are high indeed. A mother's love vs Mitchell's love for Daniel. Mother tries to reason with him, but Mitchell will have none of it. Mitchell believes that Daniel belongs right where he is, in the house that he built; the memories there should have lasted a lifetime. What was a perfect world for Daniel became as angry for everybody as the piece of art his father crafted for him.
In Daniel's Husband, everyone has an opinion; the characters all have a different way they go about things. It is one of the reasons that it is easy to watch and thoroughly enjoy regardless of one's sexual preferences. It appeals to all ages and all different ideologies. Brancato's assiduous direction has these actors clicking in the lighter times as well as the tense times.
West side Theater, Lou Libertore, McKeever, LGBTQ, Joe Brancato.