Monthly Archive for: ‘January, 2017’

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Daniel’s Husband

Daniel’s Husband. Written by Michael McKeever, Directed by Allen Sawyer. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Daniel’s Husband opens benignly with two gay couples enjoying a dinner party and successful architect Daniel Bixby and lover Mitchell Howard upscale home. They drink wine, dessert on rosemary crème brulee and drink wine. Their guests are Barry Dylon, Mitchell’s literary agent and his current boy toy Trip, a twenty-something millennial with blue lipstick and a young girl’s backpack. They kibbutz and play the ‘comparison’ game, you know- Madonna or Cyndi Lauper? Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon?  Barry is the butt of jokes about his predilection for young boys with whom he quickly tires of and discards. The banter is witty and urbane and I thought the play was going to be an examination of gay couples and dating, you know light adult fare. But Daniel’s Husband takes a sharp 180 turn into the dark space of emotional carnage, relationship devastation and philosophical discourse over gay rights.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, but definitely a required discourse on gay marriage and the rights it provides.

Excellently acted and tautly written, the Act One disagreement between Daniel and Mitchell over gay marriage will come back to haunt them in the gut-wrenching second act. The debate has probably been discussed among many a gay couple since same-sex marriage became of right in 2015. Daniel (Michael Monagle), who strives for perfection, believes strongly in marriage, a right he’s earned. It’s the completion of his dream life, the missing piece to his fulfillment.  Mitchell (Daniel Redmond) resists. Secure in his love for Daniel, he sees no requirement for legal status.  The first act nicely builds on Daniel’s family relationships- the self-absorbed, distant mother, the father who’s spoken of as a clown car of demons. Barry (Nathan Tylukti) represents the aging philanderer unwilling to commit, even though young Trip (John Steele Jr.) seems to be a promising, intelligent catch.

Add to the mix Daniel’s widowed mother Lydia (Christine Macomber), an annoyance at best, well-meaning but meddling and intrusive. She’s a sweet natured meddler who will become the demon of Act Two’s nightmare. During a heated argument over their marriage differences, Daniel has a stroke that renders him a quadriplegic, unable to speak or move. In a moment, the once vibrant Daniel is gone.  His brilliant mind trapped in a lifeless body. Even the heartless must be touched by the raw emotions of the people surrounding Daniel.

Michael Monagle, Christine Macomber and Daniel Redmond. Photo by Lois Tema.

Michael Monagle, Christine Macomber and Daniel Redmond. Photo by Lois Tema.

Act Two plays out the bitter battle between Mitchell and Lydia over control of Daniel, a real-life situation that the LGBT community is well aware. Lydia, Daniel’s birth mother is lonely, has the means and the desire to reconcile her frayed relationship with Daniel. Mitchell is distraught, filled with guilt and remorse for not having signed the domestic partnership contracts that would have protected his right’s as an unofficial married couple.   Daniel Redmond and Christine Macomber go at each with bitter dramatic flair. Barry and Trip make appear briefly to support their friends. John Steele Jr’s Trip, has a wonderful moment when he tells Daniel he wants to hear Daniel’s voice once again when he recuperates.

McKeever’s script is smart and always on point, and director  Allen Sawyer know to get the most out of his actors. The play starts as a didactic on gay marriage and the protections it provides, then segues into an in-your-face illustration of the nastier ramifications of that discussion. Single or partnered, Daniel’s Husband, raises fundamental questions of personal right’s. I left the play with a reinforced knowledge that we should all be prepared to protect our wishes should disaster strike.  Daniel’s Husband is somber, sobering and eventually empowering.

Performance run through February 26, 2017   www.nctcsf.org   415.861.8972

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