Play Daddy @ Hudson Mainstage Intriguing
by Dan Via
directed by Rick Sparks
through February 13
I was thoroughly unprepared for the impact Daddy had on me. From the title I had imagined a campy foray into the sleazy world of gay leather encompassing a slave/master experience. Comical use of Who's your daddy? came to mind. Well, how wrong could I be! Yes, indeed, the play is about gay relationships; there are even a couple of scenes in a gay bar, but Dan Via (who also plays Stew) has overall constructed a humorous, intelligent, insightful and riveting play that delves deeply into all types of relationships: friends, lovers and parents, that will appeal to everyone, gay or straight. Now onstage @ the Hudson Mainstage, Daddy, expertly helmed by Rick Sparks, will leave you ruminating.
Professor/journalist Colin McCormack (Gerald McCullouch), also an avid soccer player, unexpectedly meets Tee (Ian Verdun), who has just joined his team at Carnegie Mellon as an apprentice, in a pool bar while in the company of long-time pal Stew (Via). The initial attraction is perfunctory. By a teacher's rulebook: never date an intern! But the attraction grows deeper, to the dismay of Stew, who senses something a little off with Tee's intent. Stew's relationship with Colin is an odd one, to be sure. They are constant companions, as they have journalism, teaching and sports in common, but they are not lovers. Maybe they should be? Maybe Stew cares more for Colin than he is willing to admit? And maybe Stew is jealous of anyone who may come between him and Colin? All these issues enter the picture, as Tee gets closer to Colin, moves in, and Stew becomes increasingly suspicious and irritated. Stew finds out what is wrong with Tee and confronts him, but quite late, when the love relationship between him and Colin is already well cemented. Colin has changed 360 degrees from only wanting one night stands to really caring about one special person.
Unpredictability and a curious suspense move this play along, thanks to three earnest, heartfelt performances and brisk pacing from Sparks. McCullough is appealing to the max: honest, smart and fun and wins sympathy as a man who starts to feel the ravages of time without love. Via is equally wonderful as Stew, afraid to face his true feelings. His eventual connection to Tee and acceptance of himself in relation to the others is potent and reassuring. Verdun makes Tee innocent, yet complex and understandably confused. He could easily become the villain, but because of the literate script and Verdun's sensitive performance, Tee ultimately emerges as a good kid, who truly meant well. Fine support from Jeffrey Patrick Olson, Nik Roybal and Rene Ruiz in ensemble scenes, and praise as well to Adam Flemming for his functional set, and to Peitor Angell for some haunting intermittent music.
Some may find the ending a bit pat and the resolution ready-made, but with careful analysis, it all rings true. Daddy is simultaneously entertaining, engaging and surprisingly intuitive, hardly your typical fare.