This play is an unblinkered look at gay marriage. When you see the play, you will know what I mean.
Daniel’s Husband saw its world premiere this week at an Island City Stage production in Ft. Lauderdale. It was brilliantly written by Michael McKeever, who granted me an exclusive interview recently.
“Instead of writing about conservatives who are against gay marriage I wrote about gay guys who don’t believe in marriage,” he said. In this case it is one gay guy, Mitchell (played by Antonio Amadeo) who is living with Daniel (Alex Alvarez). Daniel desperately wants to get married, but Mitchell opposes it in no uncertain terms. In the play he describes marriage as “outdated, musty and fundamentally wrong…forged in the crucible of religion.”
The couple in the play “deal with the consequences of living together and not being married,” McKeever told me. “It’s something I’ve wanted to write for a long time.”
McKeever explained the tension that lies at the heart of the play is a consequence of our new-found freedom to marry, even in the mostly conservative state of Florida. “In the past one of the perks of being gay was you didn’t have to deal with marriage. Now it’s part of the gay vernacular.”
Mitchell asks a crucial question in the play. “What do we gain by being married?” The tragic answer to that question in revealed when Daniel suffers something akin to a stroke which leaves him unable to speak or move even an eyelash. To add another quirky dimension to the plot, Mitchell hires as a caregiver the young Trip (Kristian Bikic) who just happens to be the latest castoff lover of his middle-aged friend Barry (Larry Buzzeo).
The busybody figure of Daniel’s mother (Laura Turnbull) now becomes a menace as she tries to take custody of her son, thus taking him away from Mitchell. “I’m not the villain in this,” she says with evident if misplaced sincerity. It is up to the audience to decide who has rights here, in the absence of a gay marriage contract. Would a gay audience for this play come to the same conclusion as a straight audience?
That is what everyone who sees this provocative play needs to ask themselves as they leave the theatre, a testament not only to McKeever’s script but the excellent and convincing acting of the cast of five. There are no miracles to save the day, and no quick and dirty exits like a lethal injection to solve the problem. For McKeever, and the audience, this is reality, raw and uncensored.
McKeever, who has done 25 plays, began working as an art director in Miami for film and TV commercials. “I found I had a gift for dialog,” he told me. “I’m blessed I have a job I love. There is a great warmth and comfort to living in south Florida. My plays always start here.”
Daniel’s Husband goes beyond mere entertainment to raise social consciousness, and as such deserves a capacity audience at every performance until its run ends on June 28, 2015.
Photo: from left to right Amadeo, Alvarez, Turnbull, Buzzeo. Photo by R. Figueroa.
Visit the website for tickets: islandcitystage.org