Theater Review by Jed Ryan
In “Daddy”, the intriguing new play by Dan Via, we meet Colin and Stew: two men living in Pittsburgh who have been friends since their college days at Yale. Colin (Gerald McCullouch) is a popular writer and the self-proclaimed top scorer for his soccer team. He’s charming, self-assured, and… shall we say, quite “easy on the eyes” (and to boot, he wears a size twelve and a half shoe…). Law professor Stew (Dan Via) is not as self-confident as his friend, and is a bit more… shall we say, “tightly wound”. In case you haven’t figured it out, these two are pretty much complete opposites, right down to their choice of clothes and their facial expressions. Colin emanates affable frat boy/jock charm with his smile, while Stew clearly wears his angst on his face. Differences aside, their friendship is rock solid– although they’re not above shooting some verbal arrows at each other. Colin taunts Stew with zingers like, “I didn’t know you were that worked up about gay marriage. You haven’t even been on a date since…!“. Stew gets his chances to retort with lines like, “I realize modesty is a confusing concept for you!”
Colin’s life is changed– in a big way– when he’s approached at a bar by a wide-eyed, aspiring journalist named Tee (Bjorn DuPaty), who’s about 20 years his junior. As fate would have it, Tee is the new intern at Colin’s newspaper. Despite their differences in age (Tee doesn’t get Colin’s “E.T.” reference, and Colin finds the “Big Brother” vibe of locating someone’s house with Google Maps to be a bit unsettling.), the two are attracted to each other. Before you can say “daddy fantasy”, the sharp 21-year old and the silver fox share a romantic evening (as well as a scorcher of a kiss!), and soon afterward the two get really close, really fast. As their forbidden relationship progresses, Stew becomes a bit unsettled about his best bud’s new boyfriend. But why? Is he concerned about the age difference between Tee and Colin? Is Stew jealous that this beautiful stranger is taking his best friend away from him? Or is there something else? As it turns out, there is something else a-brewin’, and the revelation of just what that is results in a shocking climax which will have the audience backtracking to see if they missed any cryptic clues from the beginning of the story.
Envelope-pushing plot twists aside, at the heart belonging to this “Daddy” is a story about the bond between two friends. The play explores the emotional nuances of a close gay male friendship, while allowing the two leads to display some truly outstanding acting in the process. McCullouch perfectly exudes the free-spirited, self-confident sexuality of his character Colin. Via, in the less showy role, nevertheless has many of the play’s best lines thanks to his character Stew’s sarcastic humor. The rapport between McCullouch and Via is very palpable; their provocative final scene together seems to be the culmination of all their acting synergy throughout the play. “Daddy” is a triumph for all three actors, as well as director David Hilder, who gets extra credit for packing so much great stuff into a fast-moving 95 minutes. “Daddy” is a truly compelling theater experience.
Actor Gerald McCullouch and Playwright/Actor Dan Via gave an exclusive interview to Jed Ryan:
Jed Ryan: Hi Gerald. Congratulations on the premiere of “Daddy”. What attracted you to the part of Colin?
Gerald McCullough: Thanks for the congrats. Moocho appreciated. I was instantly attracted to the script and “Colin”‘s journey. Not only is Dan’s play extremely well written with sharp and funny dialogue, but the story is one of the most original and intriguing things I’ve read in quite some time.
JR: Colin is a confident, handsome, highly sexual older guy. In your opinion, is there a shortage of representation of sexy, over-40 guys in the gay male-oriented media (movies, theater, magazines…) today?
GM: If there has been in the past, I hope that’s in the process of changing. I recently finished filming “BearCity”, in which I play a similar role to “Colin” in “Daddy” so I’m hopeful, obviously, that we’re on the path to making confident, sexy, 40+ guys and their stories a more prominent part of male-oriented storytelling.
JR: The big revelation in “Daddy” towards the end of the play is a shocker. What was your reaction when you first read that in the script? Were you like, “Whoa!”?
GM: I was heartbroken – from Colin’s perspective. And blown away by what it says about the things we strive for and long for very often being right in front of our faces all along. And the hardship of getting older is articulated in such a beautiful way.
JR: In addition to acting, you have done some directing too. Is there a project that you have on the horizon, as director?
GM: Yes I’m currently juggling a few projects with my producing partner. A gay-themed feature film set on Fire Island, an Atlanta-based reality show, and bringing a stage adaptation of a very well known book to Off Broadway.
JR: How do you think audiences who know you from your role as Bobby Dawson on “CSI” will react to seeing you play such a different kind of character on the stage?
GM: Hopefully, people’s familiarity with my work on “CSI” won’t inhibit them from going on the journey of “Daddy” and experiencing that world through “Colin’s” eyes. Thus far, people have been very supportive and the response has been pretty freakin’ wonderful. Doing this play and telling Colin’s story every night has been one of the most artistically fullfilling experiences of my life.
JR: Dan, the friendship between Colin and Stew is so– for lack of a more elaborate word– “real”. They are such opposites, and they have their ups and downs, yet they are quite devoted to each other as friends. Is the relationship between these two characters based upon real-life people you know?
Dan Via: Only very loosely. I have a couple of friends in DC I jokingly refer to as “nonsexual life partners,” but it’s not really a joke. There’s no romance per se, but they’re pretty much joined at the hip and I predict that’s for keeps. But their personalities and the dynamics of their relationship are different than Colin and Stew’s.
JR: From your bio as an actor, it appears that you are attracted to a lot of renegade theater: projects that break the rules. That’s always a good thing! Is that where the envelope-pushing element of “Daddy” comes from?
DV: I don’t necessarily gravitate toward controversial or rule-breaking stuff. It all depends on the play. I’m also a fan of realism and, to be honest, I see my play as pretty mainstream. I’m not trying to push the envelope so much as tell a story I’ve not seen before.
JR: Gay marriage is not the main theme of “Daddy”, but the issue seems to be simmering below the surface. What statement are you making about gay marriage with the play?
DV: Gay marriage and, more generally, the notion that gays have more options as couples and parents than we used to, is part of what drives Colin through the story. He’s reassessing what he wants in this new environment and maybe regretting some of his past choices. But is it really possible to do a mid-life 180? I guess I’m not so sure. I think because we have been marginalized for so long, gay people have had to think outside the box about what makes a family, and that’s not always a bad thing. But I’m not trying to make any kind of political statement with this play. It’s all about how these specific characters, with their particular backgrounds, respond to this moment in time.
JR: What moments in “Daddy” have gotten strong reactions from the audience so far?
DV: I’m gonna dodge this question. I don’t want to set up any expectations. 😉
JR: Thanks guys!!!
“Daddy” runs through February 13th
TBG Arts Center Mainstage Theater
312 W. 36th St., 3rd Floor (btwn 8th & 9th Aves.)
Tickets are $18, available at www.SmartTix.com or call (212)868-4444
SEE IT! GRAND "DADDY"! Theater Review by Jed Ryan