I always knew it would take something special to get me to do a promotional post on my blog. It would either have to be something I wanted to write about anyway or the compensation would have to be ridiculously sweet. A few weeks ago, I got an email offering me tickets to see a new Off-Broadway play about gay dads by Peter Parnell.
Not only had I heard about the play, but I was a big fan of its playwright, who is probably best known to parents everywhere for co-authoring the children’s picture book “And Tango Makes Three” with his husband, Justin Richardson. Not only is that book a bedtime staple in our house, but Parnell has also been involved in two of my all-time favorite theatrical experiences, a two-part adaptation of John Irving’s “The Cider House Rules” which ran at LA’s Mark Taper Forum in 1998 and the book of the stunning stage adaptation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, which I saw earlier this year at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. (Sadly, it’s not coming to Broadway, but a cast album will be released this month.)
Would I be willing to see this show for free in exchange for writing about it? Sure! I’d even get a pair of tickets to give away to one of my readers. (That could be you! Read on for info.) I should note that I didn’t receive any compensation other than my free tickets and I didn’t agree to write anything in particular, so this is a totally honest review.
The show is called “Dada Woof Papa Hot”, and my biggest criticism of the show is of the title. It supposedly comes from the first four words the main characters’ daughter said as a baby (not all at once), and one of the dads jokes that they’re also the four words every gay dad wants to hear. I don’t know if I agree with that, but I’m pretty sure they are the last four words any grown adult wants to say out loud when talking to a Ticketmaster agent. (Except for maybe “Two for ‘Finding Neverland'”. Sorry I couldn’t resist.)
“Dada Woof Papa Hot” concerns Alan and Rob, played by the excellent John Benjamin Hickey and Patrick Breen. They’re a couple of middle-aged gay guys who’ve been together for a decade and change and have a young daughter. Don’t worry. She’s off-stage for the entire play, so you don’t have to fear that some cute child actor is going to make you feel bad about leaving your kids at home to come to the theater.
Rob is a career-minded therapist with a keen people sense, and Alan is an insecure, frustrated writer who wonders if he was cut out to be a father. They talk about their kid, marvel at the fact that they’re dads and gossip about the good-looking guys they know. I told my husband Drew I was going to say in my post that the characters reminded me of us, and he replied that if I wrote that, he would kill me — which, really, is such a Rob thing to say.
The couple befriends a younger pair of gay dads, Scott and Jason, whom they bond with over the many things they have in common. We also meet Michael and Serena, a straight couple who are a straight-up disaster. Alan and Rob are shocked to learn that Michael is having an affair. Since they had kids, Serena just isn’t as interested in sex as she used to be. Alan and Rob are glad that they don’t have that problem.
The play is very astute in detailing the differences between gay and straight marriages. Alan and Rob can be open about their crushes on other men, like Alan’s personal trainer and one of Rob’s patients. That’s something a straight guy like Michael could never do with his wife, which leads to a lot of pent-up frustration. But when two gay men lust openly after other guys, it’s all safe and fun… right?
Only, of course, it’s not. Soon, one of their new gay friends comes onto Alan, threatening to ruin both of their happy marriages at once.
Going into the show, Drew and I feared it would be another lowest common denominator act of pandering to the gay audience, full of gratuitous nudity and Streisand jokes. Yes, there’s a bit of gratuitous nudity, but Parnell is more interested in giving us our own “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” than going for easy ticket sales. His characters don’t succumb to stereotype, and he doesn’t sell them out for cheap jokes, which is probably why I found them so relatable.
“Dada Woof Papa Hot” couldn’t be more of-the-moment. There’s a schism in the gay community about having families. Are gay parents selling out their LGBTQ identity or simply buying into the American dream? Much of Alan’s doubt about being a dad comes from the feeling that he was never supposed to have kids… but is that his common sense talking or his internalized homophobia? Ultimately, the play comes down to one simple question: Now that gay couples have the freedom to marry and have children, can we avoid the pitfalls of marriage and parenthood that have long plagued straight couples?
It’s a topic that couldn’t be in better hands than it is with Parnell and the cast. Between “And Tango Makes Three” and “Dada Woof Papa Hot”, Peter Parnell is quickly becoming the patron saint of gay dads, and I’m happy to report that his new show is well worth getting a sitter for.
If you’d like to win TWO FREE TICKETS to see the show, simply leave a comment below with the words “DADA WOOF PAPA HOT ME WANNA GO!” in it. (Sorry, I’m not going to make this easy on you.) Make sure you include your name and email address in the comment form, so I can get in touch with you if you win. I’ll pick one commenter at random on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, so enter by then if you want to go. You’re on your own getting a sitter, though.
Dada Woof Papa Hot is playing at the Lincoln Center Theater now through January 3, 2016.