nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 3, 2010
The central relationship in Dan Via's new play Daddy is one I don't think I've ever seen depicted on stage before. Colin and Stew are best friends, have been since college; they're both gay and entering middle age now, and they behave for the most part like actual grown men—they value their jobs and work hard at them, they don't think about (or indulge in) sex and drugs all the time; they hang out and watch TV and eat Chinese carryout. Their comfortable, static relationship reaches a crisis point that they don't see coming when Stew receives a very attractive job offer that would require him to move across the country (they live in Pittsburgh; the offer is from Stanford University). Will this new stress force their relationship to morph into something different and deeper?
I love this premise, and I love the way Via has written these two characters; and as played by Gerald McCullouch (Colin) and Via himself (Stew), under David Hilder's smart direction, I love these two guys. They feel real to me, and mature; burdened by loneliness and insecurities, but not weighed down by them, they live the way most of us do, day to day, pulling satisfaction from work and friendships and simple things like shopping, baseball games, and nights out at the local bar.
I wanted Via to maintain focus on Colin and Stew, but instead there's another important character in Daddy, one who becomes the catalyst for much of what occurs in the play. This is Tee (short for Thaddeus), a journalism student at Carnegie Mellon University who gets an internship at the newspaper where Colin works and soon inserts himself into Colin's professional and personal life. The play's title, and at least one conversation between Stew and Colin about the latter's desire to have children, foreshadow the dynamic of the messy May-December relationship that evolves too quickly between Tee and Colin. Another exchange, one that feels like a throwaway, ultimately proves to be a bit of a portent as well:
COLIN: Maybe the Greeks were onto something. The older/younger thing.
STEW: Please. Those stories never ended well. Someone was always stabbing out their eyes or getting chained to a rock.
Tee is not as convincingly drawn a character as the older men in the play, and Bjorn DuPaty doesn't find ways to flesh him out to make him feel real. Via has made the part of the play where Tee is integral very sensational: there are echoes of Six Degrees of Separation all over it, and then something bigger and Greeker later on. The trouble is, the play doesn't feel like it needs or wants to go in this direction; the Colin-Stew dynamic at its center gets derailed while we try to decide whether or not to trust Tee.
Daddy is never less than compelling, even though in places it moves a little more slowly than would be desirable. Hilder employs two silent supernumeraries to handle the many scene changes, an elegant but time-consuming approach that keeps the piece grounded in reality and helps us follow along seamlessly. The design elements are simple and effective.
One final quibble: Daddy is the second play in the past several months (Next Fall was the first) to dangle the "hot-button issue of gay marriage" as a teaser in its press release. Like the earlier play, Daddy doesn't really have much to do with this important political subject at all, though it could. A thoughtful dramatic consideration of the reasons why Proposition 8 should be reversed deserves to be written, but I haven't seen it yet; Daddy certainly is not one. I wish that Via and all the people on his team would demonstrate confidence in what's best and most valuable in this play, namely, a smart and realistic depiction of being middle-aged, gay, alone, and in charge of your life.