I’d call “Daniel’s Husband” a Greek tragedy if it weren’t so clever, charming and funny on the way to its sadness. Playwright Michael McKeever deftly melds humor and tragedy, and the superb cast portrays the five characters so engagingly that we’re caught caring entirely too much when the problem arises.
The play, in its Southern California premiere through June 23 at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, asks us to consider questions like how much compromise is too much in a relationship and how far should you go to fight for your love.
Daniel Bixby (Bill Brochtrup), a 40s-something architect of some renown, has shared his life and his beautifully appointed home with novelist Mitchell Howard (Tim Cummings) for seven years. Daniel wants to get married, but Mitchell feels strongly that it’s unnecessary, maybe even wrong to bow to the heteronormative world’s opinion that couples “ought” to marry.
It seems they spend a fair amount of time drinking and engaging in clever repartee in their lovely living room, often with Mitchell’s agent Barry Dylon (Ed F. Martin) and his current boyfriend Trip (Jose Fernando), a 23-year-old in-home healthcare specialist.
Then there’s Daniel’s mother Lydia (Jenny O’Hara), whom Daniel calls a “monster.” Party to an acrimonious divorce from her artist husband (one of whose paintings on Daniel’s wall is the object of heated discussion), Lydia can be charming, but is a bit loud and a busybody in the way mothers are.
Since the divorce, Lydia has busied herself with her four dogs (for which she knits matching sweaters) and the local garden club. She’s beginning to feel her life is nothing but “filler.”
When Mitchell’s writing comes up, he describes his work as “literary bubblegum, the 21st century equivalent of Barbara Cartland,” but Trip insists he has read Mitchell’s books and likes them.
One night, over pre-dinner libations, Mitchell goes on one of his anti-marriage tirades, arguing that just because gays recently got the legal right doesn’t seem to him a good reason. It feels to him every bit as oppressive as the legal proscription was. The vote ends up 3-1 against Mitchell.
There are lots of clever and just plain funny plays out there, but “Daniel’s Husband” keeps your attention thanks to sharply written characters and terrific actors who bring them to vibrant life. The disaster that will change things forever gives the audience something to both sniffle and go home thinking about.
Cummings’ down-to-earth Mitchell is a good foil for Brochtrup’s more romantic Daniel. It’s easy to see why they love each other despite that one major disagreement.
Fernando’s Trip is adorable, young and eager to please, which is likely what attracted Martin’s practical if not romantic Barry to him.
O’Hara is wonderful – both charming and extremely annoying as Lydia.
These are all folks I’d love to have dinner with. They’re bright, funny and delightful to be around.
Kudos to director Simon Levy for setting the right tone. Special mention to DeAnne Millais for the beautiful set, and to Jennifer Edwards, Peter Bayne and Michael Mullen for their excellent lighting, sound and costume designs.
“Daniel’s Husband” is a fine play with something to say, and excellently performed. Take tissues.
“Daniel’s Husband” plays through June 23, 2019, at The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue in Los Angeles.
Monday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: (323) 664-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com