Who's Your Daddy? 

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Although�ƒ�€š�‚ Daddy (at the TGB Arts Center through February 13) alternates between soap opera and semi-political treatise on gay marriage rights, it is essentially a love triangle about how two 40-something gay best friends react when a third (younger) vertex is introduced to their geometry. The soap opera aspect of the play is engaging, if not a little outlandish, culminating in a bizarre turn of events which leaves the audience's collective jaw on the floor and ultimately casts a shock shadow over anything important that was said before. This seems detrimental at first, but closer inspection of the premise and playwright reveals that this is probably the point.�‚ In light of recent�‚ political developments�‚ and�‚ pro-gay rights protests in the straight community, it's hard not to look for a political stance or message in�‚ Daddy. But the only political satisfaction is offstage, and doesn't ever usurp the main narrative. Despite a flimsy effort at creating a versatile set and a script that's at times awkward and affected,�‚ Daddy�‚ does offer a different way of approaching the gay marriage issue. That is, to not acknowledge the hetero model as one for gays to follow or aspire to at all.

Colin and Stew, played by Gerald McCullouch, of CSI fame, and Dan Via as the cynical nerd, respectively, are best friends with history. Colin is an aging yet hip columnist for the Pittsburgh Gazette whose writing focuses on gay issues throughout the city. Stew is a law professor whose syllabi are focused on gay marriage. The pair at first seem to be quite invested in the fight for marriage equality, but their interest is more professional than anything; Stew thinks marriage is "hetero-normative" and not functional for the modern gay man and Colin seems to be more concerned with giving his "Colin injection" to the "sexually ambiguous frat boys" on his Rec soccer team than getting married. It isn't until Tee (played by a sufficiently angry Bjorn DuPaty) appears that we see any passion about the subject either way.�‚ 

But even as Tee and Colin become a couple, their talk never turns to marriage despite the tension surrounding it in the play—at a gay rights protest Tee beans one of the anti-gay marriage speakers with a hand-held tape recorder and gets attacked by the mob. Back at the apartment Stew looks on disapprovingly at Tee's wounds and Colin isn't so much concerned about what caused the outburst as he is with Tee's well-being. Meanwhile, Tee can't understand why they aren't just as enraged as he is about the heinous things being said at the protest. In an�‚ interview with nytheatre.com�‚ about gay marriage rights in�‚ Daddy Via, the star and playwright, talks about the dichotomy and surmises "that being excluded from that traditional institution has forced/allowed gay people to find their own solutions." There is a generational disconnect in the gay community that isn't so easily reconcilable.

At times the writing in�‚ Daddy�‚ becomes over-determined and disingenuous, bordering on self-parody; Colin throws the words "bro" and "dude" around like he's�‚ one of the frat boys that interest him. Tee's initial attempts to meet Colin at a bar are meant to come off cute, but they devolve into annoying stutter that reflects the general dispassion for relationships in the rest of the piece. Via's performance as Stew is particularly noteworthy and interesting—playing the cool, brilliant, and cynical academic to a perfect conclusion as the voice of reason—but it's clear that Via wrote the play with himself in mind and the other characters' dialogue suffers because of it. The set is all flowing curtains that are drawn back and forth on wires to create different rooms, which initially seems like a good use of the tiny stage, but for a play that is so grounded in realism, the flowing gauzy curtains add an element of fantasy that it might have done without. Every room created seemed like another hideaway in some sort of Arabian harem. It is only in the final hospital room reveal that the curtain set is necessary and the actors can let loose with a modicum of emotion instead of the preceding cold, quick-quipping insult-fest.

The characters in�‚ Daddy�‚ are only cursorily concerned with the fight for gay marriage rights; they are for it, but only by default because they are gay—none of them have a desire to marry—so why write a play about them and not a triangle where marriage was involved? There is of course the argument that this play was simply written with gay men arbitrarily and is really about twisted relationships in general, but it is hard to believe this was Via's sole intention. There are a few moments when Daddy�‚ could be a call to action for an older generation of gay men to participate more fully in the current fight for rights, but it's unclear just how interested or committed the playwright himself is to the topic. In either case, it is clear that for a debut effort from an actor turned playwright, it's an interesting foray into the battle. But�‚ Daddy,�‚ as it stands now, will definitely not father any viable theatrical offspring.

(photo credit: Eduardo Placer)

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