We’ve come a long way from The Boys In the Band. This isn’t to speak poorly of Mart Crowley’s 1968 portrayal of gay life, but it was not without a heaping dose of self-loathing and shame. As gay drama progressed into the seventies and eighties, the focus centered upon the politics of HIV and AIDS- diseases that are no longer a death sentence but still play prominent roles in the lives of many. So as I watched Peter Parnell’s play Dada Woof, Papa Hot, I couldn’t help but ponder a few questions: Has the homosexual fight for equality subconsciously forced us back to expected normative behavior? Has the conversation of AIDS become obsolete? Are we really this privileged? None of this is meant as opprobrium against Parnell’s story, but is intended as more of a rhetorical dialogue .
Parnell deconstructs three relationships. A middle-aged gay couple: therapist Rob (Patrick Breen) and his husband, a struggling journalist, Alan (John Benjamin Hickey). The two have a 3-year-old named Nicola, but Rob’s constant doting on her is terribly off-putting to Alan, who feels as though Nicola favors Rob.
Their younger friends, Scott (Stephen Plunkett) and Jason (Alex Hurt) are the fathers of two boys and have more relaxed parameters about their relationship-or at least one of them does. Jason holds a nebulous job in finance and a knack for Republican thought, while his carefree artist husband Scott jumps into the sac at the whims of his sexual compulsion.
Enter the heterosexuals: Serena (Kellie Overbey), and Michael (John Pankow), who is Alan’s college friend. With a beautiful apartment and children of their own, certainly they must be have a picture perfect existence, right? Not quite. Michael has an extra-curricular girlfriend named Julia (usually played by Tammy Blanchard but played by Kathy McCafferty at this reviewer’s performance) whose children happen to be in the same pre-school as the other two couples.
Parnell’s commentary, under the expert direction of Scott Ellis, is a funny, smart, and refreshing view on relationships and the extent of sacrifice we are willing to make, both in our relationships and in ourselves. Has the fight for gay rights blurred the lines between what we can do and what we should do? While his upper class characters fit the one percent mold, there remains a universal theme of introspection. It does not proselytize about coupledom or child-rearing but, like a great meal, Dada Woof, Papa Hot presents us with a contemporary feast of thought and reflection.
Dada Woof, Papa Hot is playing Off Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater, 150 West 65th Street on the Campus of Lincoln Center. For tickets and information, click here.