BWW Review: Let Me Introduce You To DANIEL'S HUSBAND - A Perfect 10!
The Fountain Theatre's Southern California premiere of DANIEL'S HUSBAND has brought together a not-oft-enough, ideal convergence of uniformly talent of talents - with witty, realistic, heart-rendering dialogue by playwright Michael McKeever; sturdy, even-paced directing by Simon Levy; first-rate technical elements; and a pitch, pitch-perfect cast of five actors, each at the top of their individual games.
Upon entering the Fountain Theatre, audience's eyes take appreciative notice of set designer DeAnne Millais' inviting, luxury-appointed, modern living room set with visible hallways leading off-stage. This living room belongs to architect Daniel Bixby and his lover, writer Mitchell Howard.
DANIEL'S HUSBAND opens with a small gathering of Daniel, Mitchell and Mitchell's agent Barry Dylon, with his much younger date Trip. The party conversation veers from volatile politics to everyday word games to biting and revealing asides and comments. In the midst of their casual party talk, Daniel's desire to get married to Mitchell gets brought up, along with Mitchell's passionate, empathic reasons not to.
The interloper to the Bixby/Howard household, Daniel's mother Lydia, arrives later to spend a week with these two "who are like my own two sons!"
Without giving away any spoilers, I can report to you that all the characters' relationships with each other ring true-to-life. Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings as Daniel and Mitchell have the loving, lived-in rapport of two people living together for seven years. (Brochtrup and Cummings played lovers previously in Fountain Theatre's THE NORMAL HEART.) Brochtrup's usually affable Daniel finally lets loose his pent-up emotions in an explosive confrontation with Mitchell. Whoa!!! A.Ma.Zing Brochtrup! Cumming's Mitchell commands the stage being the more vocal of the couple, but really nails his altercations with Lydia. Bravo, Cummings!
Jenny O'Hara inhabits the meddling mother/mother-in-law Lydia. When Lydia arrives at the Bixby/Howard household, O'Hara bursts through the front door like an enthusiastic tornado engulfing the powerless Daniel and Mitchell. After stories of her four dogs she likes to dress up, and belonging to a ladies' group she can't stand; O'Hara's Lydia turns uncharacteristically introspective. O'Hara smoothly pulls off that sudden change of mood, as she does of her various quarrels with "just like my own son" Mitchell.
Ed F. Martin plays Mitchell's agent Barry as a combo agent (efficient) and friend (supportive and loyal) anyone could hope as their own. Barry has a habit of dating guys much younger than he is, in this case, the youthful Trip, so naively essayed by Jose Fernando. Many jokes aimed at their May-December romance result in much laughter from the audience and those onstage (not including the charmingly, bewildered Trip).
Kudos to lighting designer Jennifer Edwards for her most effective outside street lamp lighting of the darkened living room, as well as, the stark spotlighting of Brochtrup's Daniel and Cumming's Mitchell, when each break the fourth wall with their potent monologues.
And props to both sound designer Peter Bayne and costume designer Michael Mullen for their proficient tech contributions.
Clever move to have the large "angry" painting, an integral plot point, as imaginary hanging on the fourth wall between the actors and the audience. Art's so subjective, each audience member can interpret their own vision of "angry," without debating an actual visual.
If there's any theatre piece more effective in encouraging marriage between two loving adults, gay or straight, I need to see that also.
May I suggest, that aside from all the laughing you probably will be doing, you might need something to wipe the tears from your eyes.
Don't wait to meet DANIEL'S HUSBAND and his marvelous cohorts!!! Who knows what tomorrow will bring.