“I’m not the villain” states Daniel’s mom, Lydia (Anna Holbrook), in Michael McKeever’s revived play Daniel’s Husband, now playing Off-Broadway at Westside Theatre. I wanted to take a phrase from my friend Stacy and yell “but you are Blanche, you are.”
Here we meet Daniel Bixby (Ryan Spahn) and his partner of seven years, Mitchell Howard (Matthew Montelongo) throwing a dinner party for Mitchell’s long-time literally agent, Barry (Lou Liberatore) and his boy toy of the month, Trip (Leland Wheeler). These are fabulous, successful gay men, sipping wine and expensive scotch, discussing art, and exchanging bitchy comments until the subject of gay marriage comes up. Seems Daniel is for and Mitchell against.
I understood Mitchell’s reasoning, as I feel the same way, but for partners who are not married and when the parents of one or the other are controlling, manipulative, and out to fix their parenting skills, not being legal can caused heartbreak. Both men are right. Mitchell believes marriage is fundamentally wrong, based on financial and not a true emotional connection. Daniel wants to show our families, show the world, we are so much more than what they think.
Daniel’s mother is rich, angry at the ex-husband, and wants the painting her son displays proudly to be taken off the wall. Daniel’s mother causes him anxiety, and when she visits, drives him up the wall. She does, however, consider Mitchell her other son, or does she?
When a moment in time changes life as they all know it, marriage, or the legal papers that keep things running smoothly, become more important than anyone could have known.
The chemistry between Spahn and Montelongo is evident and adds to the heartbreak of the piece. Spahn is also delivering a heart-wrenching performance and brings heart to this piece, but it is Montelongo who has the longer journey. From a confident individual to an emotionally drained man, we feel his pain. Lou Liberatore and Leland Wheeler are comedic and the warmth of friendship. As Daniel’s mom, Ms. Holbrook makes us hate her. Her sympathetic and disillusioned take on her child has a narcissistic take.
Joe Brancato’s direction allows us to slowly peel away the layers. Brian Prather’s set shows us the talented architect that Daniel was and how messy life inside perfection can be.
Daniel’s Husband is well written and raises issues that are prevalent for any kind of marriage.
Daniel’s Husband: Westside Theatre (Upstairs), 407 West 43rd St.