MvVO Art Launches AD ART SHOW
Off Broadway

He Says: Revisiting Daniel’s Husband: A Cautionary Tale of Gay Marriage

He Says: Revisiting Daniel’s Husband: A Cautionary Tale of Gay Marriage

I first went to see Daniel’s Husband when it played at The Cherry Lane Theatre, and all I could utter when it was all over to my fellow theatre junkie, Steve, who was oddly more devastated than I was, a very uncommon moment for the both of us, was that “I wasn’t prepared for that”. Once again as I’ve said before, the wonderfulness of not having any idea where something is heading is truly my most favorite position to be in when walking into the theatre. This was no exception back then, and on second viewing, the knowledge of where this piece is heading did alter the experience, but I wouldn’t say for the worse.  It gave me insight in to the shimmers of what was coming, weaved most delicately into the upholstery. On first viewing I took that as awkward artificial writing, but this time in those threads I found gold. Michael McKeever (Clark Gable Slept Here) has crafted something that is equally complex and engaging even on repeat. In McKeever’s new play, Daniel’s Husband, we are invited in for a dinner party, a theatrical setting that numerous classic conflict-laden pieces are set.  As is customary for these types of serious relationship/family dramas, the group has gathered in a well-appointed living room for wine, conversation, and some delicious sounding dessert (I want one, please). This time around, it is the lovely home of the perfect gay couple; the gentle architect Daniel Bixby (Spahn) and his handsome manly boyfriend, novelist Mitchell Howard, expertly played by Matthew Montelongo (Cherry Lane’s One Night). Daniel, keenly and precisely played by the wondrous Ryan Spahn (Transport Group/CSC’s Summer and Smoke), has created a modern clean living environment, perfect for entertaining guests for intimate dinner parties with his loving partner. On this particular night, they have invited Mitchell’s close friend and literary agent, Barry Dylon, wonderfully played by a subtle Lou Liberatore (Broadway’s Burn This) and his adorably young new boyfriend, Trip, the home care specialist, lovingly and maturely portrayed by the touchingly sweet Leland Wheeler (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”).

Ryan Spahn and Matthew Montelongo. Photo by Carol Rosegg.JPG
Ryan Spahn, Leland Wheeler,Lou Liberatore. Photo: Carol Rosegg

All is going well, with witty conversations and delicious creme brûlée surrounded by post modern furniture, an old fashioned record collection, and modern art with an angry edge, created by the impeccable design team of scenic designer, Brian Prather (Off-Broadway’s Heartbreak House); costume designer  Gregory Gale (Broadway’s Rock of Ages): lighting designer, Jeff Croiter (Broadway’s Bandstand); and original music & sound design by William Neal (Off-Broadway’s Small World), when Trip mistakenly refers to the perfect couple as a married one. It seems that this is a point of contention, a place where the conflict between Daniel and his boyfriend lies strong and hardwired.  Daniel wants a wedding, deeply and achingly, but Mitchell is adamantly against becoming anyone’s husband, for numerous strongly stated reasons, some which I also whole-heartingly agree with.  It’s an intense exchange that is very relatable and intense, although it contains a lecture that abruptly comes to an end with a closing argument of  “ENOUGH” shouted strongly and finally by Daniel.  I remember thinking, this is where the story will spin out from, but in the moment it remained unclear just how this subject of gay marriage and commitment will eventually be played out and debated as it is most definitely where this story is heading.

Anna Holbrook, Matthew Montelongo and Ryan Spahn. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Anna Holbrook, Matthew Montelongo, Ryan Spahn. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Enter Daniel’s mother, the well-heeled modern and socially conscious Lydia Bixby, played with a needy and brittle demeanor by the talented Anna Holbrook (Primary Stage’s The Dolphin Position).  She’s wonderfully vocal and kind to Mitchell, but it is also clear she needs so much reassurance and attention from everyone around her, including her uncomfortable son. The conversation as written feels contrived at moments, making sure all the complexities of their relationships are firmly stated and in place without giving any clues away about what is in store. It’s well structured and even more wisely played now than before as directed neatly by Joe Brancato (Off-Broadway’s Tryst, Cobb). We are thoroughly engaged in this couple, loving and caring for them as if they were our own, waiting in expectation for the dilemma to present itself.  The only question that remained was: in what form will it come? Well, once again, I’m not going to tell you, but it does arrive soon after with a crack that shocks, and the choices these two have made over the course of their seven year relationship will have intense consequences, devastatingly so.

Matthew Montelongo and Anna Holbrook. Photos Carol Rosegg.JPG
Matthew Montelongo, Anna Holbrook. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Daniel’s Husband expertly walks us through the complicated world where some hard fought human equality rights were won, but not desired by all. The right to marry, yes, but the personal desire to marry is a different thing.  Some enjoy being outside the status quo and the traditional path, while others desire being on the inside. Although it’s clear that Mitchell is going to have to deal with himself and his stance for a long time coming, we sit firmly with this couple, and believe in their love and attachment to each other. The writing is clearly defined, although moments feel a tad scripted as the playwright makes sure all the political points are clearly stated, yet all the avenues are well canvased. For such an intimate and quiet drama to unfold, their rowdy neighbors, The Other Josh Cohen (not the lesbians next door) need to turn down their loud music as it is overpowering  and distracting us from the intensity on stage and dark emotionality. The true details of Daniel’s Husband require full engagement, and the disco beat coming from below is fracturing the connection. In the moments outside of this particular problem, the dynamics doesn’t always feel completely authentic, but the debate being presented isn’t one-sided either.  Both paths are well stated, and explored. It’s a beautifully crafted plot, expertly realized, that leaves us in shock. Devastatingly intense right up to the final moments, it is no easy walk in the park, nor down the aisle, for Daniel’s Husbandis a cautionary story we all need to hear, feel, and fully understand.

Ryan Spahn and Matthew Montelongo. Photo by Carol Rosegg (2)
Matthew Montelongo, Ryan Spahn in Daniel’s Husband at the Westside Theatre. Photo: Carol Rosegg.
So for more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

More in Off Broadway

The Clementine Co. d/b/a The Theater Center et al. v. Bill de Blasio

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 21, 2021

The Last Boy Returns So History is Not Forgotten

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 19, 2021

Theatre News: Little Shop of Horrors, Take Me Out, Bedlam, A Turtle on a Fence Post and Fairycakes

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 19, 2021

Quixote Productions Brings Telly Leung to Direct Tiananmen, Americano! to NYC and Gives Birth to Three New Musicals

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 18, 2021

Broadway Takes Over Early Morning and Late Night TV and Showed Up On You Tube

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 17, 2021

Theatre News: Curtain – Up, Stupid Kids, Closer Than Ever, Merry Wives Of Windsor and Comedy of Errors

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 17, 2021

Theatre News: New Sondheim Musical, Karen Olivo, Ian McKellen on Stage and Live at The Lortel

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 16, 2021

Theatre News: A New Tina, Diana, Company and Morning Sun

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 13, 2021

Ni Mi Madre: Portrait of Identity

Robert MassimiSeptember 13, 2021