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Dada Woof Papa Hot

John Benjamin Hickey and Patrick Breen

                                          By David Schultz

When a play seeks to uncover a specific demographic while trying to be all-inclusive to everyone it can be difficult to pull off successfully. Playwright Peter Parnell expertly sets up a classic scenario on the travails of gay parenthood. The reality of gay men accessible to legalized marriage and being parents of children gives this work a fresh twist. The idea is newish to theater, gay parenting, legal gay marriage, rather au courant, but if this were a “Straight”, ahem. …Straight play it wouldn’t garner much attention. The convolutions of plot, and various set pieces coalesce into an untidy, yet satisfying whole. Within its overly schematic confines, Dadda Woof has some brilliant, heartfelt monologues, and verbal arias on the vast changes in the modern age that are now available to gay men and women. 

Dada Woof Papa Hot review

Alex Hurt, John Benjamin Hickey, Stephen Plunkett and Patrick Breen    Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

This new balancing act is at the heart of this work. As the play begins two gay couples eating at a ritzy restaurant are deeply embroiled in discussion of their young children. Rob (Patrick Breen) and husband Alan (John Benjamin Hickey) are discussing their three year-old daughter Nicola with delight. They have been together for fifteen years, and married for three. Rob, a psychiatrist and Alan, a freelance journalist discuss daycare, nanny problems, and the entire plethora of kiddy chat. Joining these two daddies at the table are fellow daddies Scott and Jason; a younger couple also in the rush of their new parenthood; Scott (Stephen Plunkett) and hunky, hubby Jason (Alex Hurt) are equally, deeply engrossed in discussion of their two young sons, toddler Oliver and baby Clay. Scott, a stuffy venture capitalist and Jason an avant garde painter, seem equally ready to become gay pioneer fathers. The children are heard offstage at times, but never seen.

Kellie Overbey and John Pankow

As a counterpoint to these four daddies, the play posits a straight married couple to the mix; Michael (John Pankow) and Serena (Kellie Overbey) are long time friends of Rob and Alan. There is trouble brewing in their marriage, and Michael confides to Alan of an affair he is having with a mutual friend, Julia (Kathy McCafferty) a blowsy actress. This revelation trickles down into both men’s private lives in different, but potent ways. Alan sensing a creeping distance between his young daughter and husband finds himself inexorably drawn to younger Jason to affirm his self-worth and attractiveness. They tentatively flirt and appear to have an attraction to each other. But things stop short of an actual seduction. The possibility is just within reach, but Rob pulls back to stop the flow of sexual electricity. Scott and Jason have their own issues, which are hidden from view for much of the play, but their marital discontent and internal demons do rear their ugly head in the later portion of the evening. Promiscuous and free spirited Jason has a long history of gallivanting with various men, right under the nose of Scott who has until now looked the other way. In a rather heavy-handed scene at a beach house in Fire Island, the tension reaches a boiling point, and the emotions rise. Too many transgressions in the Meat Rack with sheepish grinning Jason returning at sunrise, have taken their toll on Scott. A throwaway offhanded remark from Jason at the beach house with all four men in attendance sets off an even more heated debate as the seduction, but not consummated affair with Rob and Jason comes to light. The mere detailing of key plot points does give one an impression of a sordid gay soap opera, but the work does find its heart and soul deeply embedded. The cast works impeccably together with consummate skill. The rhythmic cadence of the writing and performance are entwined with finesse…. but alas, the convoluted construction of the work does have loads of potholes, and in close examination much of what happens in the play eventually rings false.

Director Scott Ellis smoothes over these rough patches with his savvy cast. The play precipitously veers towards didacticism at key moments. The swiftly moving set design by John Lee Beatty posits wooden planks with scenery that moves in diagonally onstage; various key scenes glide in and out with cinematic panache. The occasional pitch perfect monologues concerning what gay liberation in the new millennium has wrought; mingled with a discovery of what the brand new rules are, and should be, are wonderfully written.  Conversely, the machinations of plot seem bogus, and make this a conflict that doesn’t coalesce with true satisfaction. This newish territory with no clear road map is where these men are heading. The bittersweet tone of the work gives one pause. Dadda Woof makes it clear that this new trailblazing vista is filled with everything that their straight counterparts have been experiencing for eons. Be careful what you wish for boys…. you just might get it.                 


Playing at Lincoln Center Theater at The Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

150 West 65th Street


Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes with no intermission

Runs through January 3rd 2016