“Art loses it’s worth the minute it can be bought? or like…yeah… It becomes worthless once it’s owned” Franklin … Daddy
The effect a father has on his son and then a mother’s claustrophobic love can damage a child in oh so many ways. Jeremy O. Harris’s new play Daddy not only shows one form of that result but also a sexual format that engages the older/younger relationship between two homosexual men.
Matt Saunders’ pulsating, blue pool dominates the set. Here is where lovers play, inhabitants swim, get baptized, and wash their sins away… or do they? This set is the first thing your eyes take in, as you view this multi-layer palatial place in the La La Land sky. Adding to this visual effect is Isabella Byrd’s exquisite lighting that reflects not only the mood but the inner feelings of the play.
As the play opens, Franklin (Ronald Peet) is swimming in the pool as art collector Andre (Alan Cumming), who’s in a drug-induced frenzy, seeks to adore his young guest. He nicknames him Naomi, after Naomi Cambell’s legs. Andrea worships Franklin’s chocolate colored skin as he licks, rubs, and cajoles him. Swimming trunks come off as Franklin seeks to have his thumb sucked and calls Andrea… Daddy. Andrea has a weakness for helping those who are needy, but it is clear there are issues here for both. Franklin longs to talk and share ideas about his artistic ambition. Andre can’t get enough of gazing at him. Like his extensive art collection, Andrea wants to own Franklin, almost like a precious piece of art.
Cut to a couple of days later… Max (Tommy Dorfman) and Bellamy (Kahyun Kim), Franklin’s friends, envy and long for a relationship that offers such things as expensive sunglasses. They drink Andrea’s champagne but are uneasy about this quick moving relationship. They are afraid Andrea will stifle Franklin’s budding art career.
George Michael’s ‘Father Figure’ was the perfect song choice for the theme. As we see the relationship between Andrea and Franklin progress, it becomes almost S&M in nature, especially when we see Andrea take Franklin in the pool and it is his first time as a bottom. Franklin seeks to please, but in the S&M culture, they always say the submissive is in control.
In the meantime, Franklin has an art show coming up and his mother, Zora (Charlayne Woodard), is coming to visit him in LA. Franklin avoids her calls, and when we meet her, we understand why. Without the over-the-top crazy, she is like Carrie’s mother; born again, self-righteous, and unhearing.
When Zora sees her son’s art show, she puts down his dolls as coon babies and dismisses his work. When she meets Andrea, she calls him Methuselah, immediately thinking this white man is using and psychologically abusing her son. She can’t even really accept her son is gay.
Franklin starts to break down at this point, especially when Alessia (Hari Nef), the owner of the art gallery his show has just been a success in, agrees with his mother that “Coon Babies” is the key to more success. In response, Franklin makes three gigantic versions of himself, his mother and Andrea. He starts to be unable to breathe and longs for “Daddy”, any “Daddy” to protect him. He wants to be seen, he wants to be heard, and he so desperately wants this that he becomes lost to himself.
Daddy: A co-production of The New Group and Vineyard Theatre at the Signature Theatre, 480 West 42nd through March 31st.
When Franklin and Andrea decide to marry, Zora fights for the soul of her child.
All during this, Carrie Compere, Denise Manning, and Onyie Nwachukwu are the church choir commenting on what is happening.
In the end, everyone has lost, because they could not see, hear, or speak, evil or good.
You will see a whole lot of Peet and Cumming, as they strip down to nothing emotionally and physically. You will believe this relationship and all the ones that are here, even though there are a lot of fantasy scenes. This cast makes the voices in our heads seem real. Ms. Woodard is that mother who has ice for a heart and destroys her child by never understanding them, being so self-absorbed and never asking herself what her child really needs to be fulfilled. The whole cast creates characters who make us laugh, make us cringe, and make us wonder about humanity. Bravo!
Danya Taymor’s direction is playful, thought-provoking, and so watchable. I wanted to see what happened next. This was a rollercoaster journey that you knew was not going to end in the best way.
O. Harris’ writing is definitely shocking. He likes to push boundaries with sex, language, and ideas. His Slave Playwas just as sexually charged and thought-provoking.
The scenes from Daddy will not leave your head for a while, nor will the questions this play asks.
Daddy: A co-production of The New Group and Vineyard Theatre at the Signature Theatre, 480 West 42nd through March 31st