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This is not really a play about gay marriage, and not one of those light, comedies, it is impressively directed by Allen Sawyer, you feel very comfortable in the living room of these gay friends. Daniel’s Husband is a new play from keen author Michael McKeever now on stage at the New Conservatory Theatre Center Walker stage through Feb 26th. The play has been successful on regional circuit for the past couple of years. The work is now in its final staging before the team premieres its off-Broadway debut later this March in New York. Director Sawyer has assembled an exceptional cast to bring us home to these four friends about to deal with more than the average gay themed drama.

Playwright McKeever writes a soft warm first act that makes us feel we have known these men in the past. He easily introduces us to Daniel’s and Mitchell’s deco home that set designer “Bo” Golden has beauty crafted with all the simple mood of an art de vivre. Daniel is played by the foolproof Michael Monagle and Mitchell just as fine played by the fantastic Daniel Redmond. The two are having dinner with their guests Barry played by the excellent Nathan Tylutki who is Mitchell’s literary agent, and Barry’s current boy toy, Trip played by the superb John Steele Jr. are doing after dinner drinks and playing the latest old fashioned word games that friends play. Director Sawyer brings warmth and likable moments into this dinner party and we think we know what’s going on and what should come next.

Young Trip is confused that Mitchell is a strong opponent of gay marriage. "I don't understand, how can you not believe in it? It's not Santa Clause," says Tripp, Mitchell gets angry "Marriage is an archaic institution fundamentally wrong and meant only for incipient queens who want to assimilate." Daniel is on the other side and wants to marry Mitchell, and always has and the two are very much in love. It has been six years and they are the perfect couple. Trip who is 23 half their age wants to understand all this adult politics about men who don’t want to marry, and in doing so falls for Daniel. Trip flirts with his new friends as Barry understands it is time for a new boy toy. Steel Jr. as the young millennial brings the talented cast some humorous moments as the marriage argument turns to dark times.

To stir the comedy away from the warm conversation of the first act - Daniels mother Lydia comes breezing in, played by the stunning Christine Macomber, this controlling mother, arrives to see her boys, and irritates them with her standard questions about why they are not married and what have they been doing. The conversion does not sit well with the couple, they are not boys, according to Lydia’s judgment. They are men, grown men, with concerns, and the marriage argument continues with the two after mom leaves. Mitch holds down his feelings with his same position but Daniel explodes. He wants to be married because now, they can – something snaps. Daniel collapses to the floor - the house darkens and act one comes to a devastating end.

The second act takes a lifetime channel turn with a different deeper tragedy exploring some the politics of nonfunctional gay marriage as related to a modern relationship. The story turns important and brings the issue of marriage and medical issues to the table with unexpected emotions. Michael Monagle is provocative as Daniel Bixby. Daniel Redmond gives a tour deforce performance as Mitchell bringing tears to tragic loss and keeping the sold out audiences in a hankie mood. Christine Macomber is superb as Lydia the controlling mom. Nathan Tylutki as Barry and John Steele Jr. as Trip are fully realized in their roles. Director Sawyer has created a space for this black box living room of drama to fit in as if we are their with this group of important friends. The costumes by Michelle Mulhollan are dapper and colorful, that create a warm feel Tylutki dressed in his agent wear, and Trip the one character dressed in bright colors and electric lip stick and socks. Maxx Kurzunski’s lighting is important - as Daniel breaks the 4th wall to tell us the deep tragedy of his illness the room goes dark with pools of blue and green light. The hard spot on his face and broken shadows of light tell this story well as it gets darker and sadder.

Daniel's Husband is a play that clearly makes a point of important issues of marriage to deal with our health care systems and families that are affected by these careless laws. McKeever’s script is significant and his structure works well. The New Conservatory Theatre Center’s production of Daniel’s Husband is important new gay theatre with a universal boldness. Daniel Redmond performance is aspiring and brings the house to their feet for every performance. Coming up next is a world premiere of Jewell Gomez' Leaving the Blues running March 3 to April 3rd.

New Conservatory Theatre Center Presents

Daniel's Husband

Written by Michael McKeever

Directed by Allen Sawyer

Through February 26, 2017

Walker Theatre,

New Conservatory Theatre Center

25 Van Ness Ave at Market Street,

San Francisco, CA

Running time 90 min no intermission

Tickets and information at 415-861-8972

Photos by Lois Tema

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