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BUA’s DANIEL’S HUSBAND Renews Love of Live Theater

THE BASICS:  DANIEL’S HUSBAND, by Michael McKeever, produced by Buffalo United Artists, directed by Javier Bustillos, runs at the Alleyway Theatre through November 7. Friday and Saturday nights only, all performances at 8 p.m., run time 90 minutes without intermission. Enter via the Alleyway (not Main Street) which connects Pearl and Main, just north of Shea’s.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  “Mitchell does not believe in gay marriage… his partner Daniel does.” So reads the tagline on the program and that conflict underpins the dramatic arc in a play about two successful gay men, a writer and an architect, whose comfortable arrangement is attacked by unfriendly forces – society and illness – making for a very compelling drama.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION

As has been reported elsewhere, the acting in this intense 90 minute drama is beyond reproach, with every actor completely in character for every minute on stage. Michael Seitz, as Daniel, the architect with the beautiful home who cooks gourmet meals, never the same meal twice, and is somewhat controlling, brings a quiet intensity that occasionally flashes, but then Daniel pulls it back in. Ultimately, he’ll have to hold everything in.

If Daniel is controlling, it’s in his DNA, evident a few seconds after his mother comes to visit. Anne Hartley Pfohl nails this role, the somewhat well intended, but ultimately selfish mother. With body language, and these looks that speak volumes, you know that this woman is a force.

Supporting actors include Tyler Brown as Trip, the young nurse and love interest of Barry, the literary agent/lawyer played by Timothy Patrick Finnegan. These two have big shoes to fill, since they keep appearing throughout the play, providing important material that moves a lot of the action forward. And as the play develops, these two grow. Trip grows up and Barry grows tired. And they do that convincingly in just 90 minutes.

But the major kudos go to Eric Rawski as Mitchell, who is on stage for almost the entire play and has his emotions whipsawed back and forth before our very eyes. Rawski has a way of commanding any stage he’s on, all the while appearing to be just a good hearted slob like the rest of us. And maybe that’s his genius. Everyone deserves our pity, but Mitchell invokes our sympathy. His concerns are our concerns, his worries are ours, his sadness just rips our hearts. We care about Mitchell, a lot, and we’ve only known him for 90 minutes.

The direction by Javier Bustillos is sure handed, starting off with a light dinner party and the stage business of the wine glasses, the crème brulee torch, the vinyl records. It never seems “busy” but just natural. And then it starts to get serious.

In college I was told “if it ends in a marriage, it’s a comedy; if it ends with a death, it’s a tragedy.” Well, SPOILER ALERT, there’s neither here. Nobody gets married. Nobody dies. But Mitchell could have married. And Daniel could die. And that’s what makes this play so compelling. Michael McKeever has put our lives on stage, starting with the light banter and white lies that we all engage in, but then slowly and inexorably tightening the situation. Things might look bad now, but they could get worse. It’s a technique used by all the masters, from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Hitchcock.

If you’ve been to plays recently that have been “okay” but didn’t really move you, this production is the prescription you need. The writing, the direction, the acting all come together for a night at the theater that will engage both your mind and your heart.

*five-buffalo-400-pix-4

 

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

 

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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