Hard on the heels of Mark Gerrard's delightful play about midlife crisis for a gay couple with a child, we have Peter Parnell's pleasant but not totally satisfying DADA WOOF PAPA HOT, beautifully acted, staged (Scott Ellis), and designed (John Lee Beatty), at the Mitzi Newhouse.
Rob, a psychiatrist (Patrick Breen), and Alan, a freelance writer (John Benjamin Hickey), seem to have it all -- a solid relationship, a lovely four year old daughter, and a gorgeous Greenwich Village apartment. This is not the Ideal Gay Family Terrence McNally gave us in his MOTHERS AND SONS a couple of years ago. Alan, a fifty-something gay man who can remember the liberated days and the AIDS epidemic, is jealous that their daughter seems to love Rob more and equally jealous that Rob pays so much attention to their daughter. He is also feeling the itch, the sense that he is missing sexual excitement. When he and Rob get together with their best straight friends or with the the gay couple with children they met at the gay dads dinner, they talk of child rearing, but in each couple, someone is cheating. Straight Michael is having an affair with a married actress and gay Jason is something of a sex addict. Alan has been writing an article for the New Yorker on the "fidelity gene," which only one member of each couple seems to possess. All three couples go through a crisis. Plays about marriage seem perforce to be plays about infidelity.
DADA WOOF PAPA HOT would have worked as a witty comedy of manners but Parnell, who has been a successful writer-producer for television, keeps taking the play into the sort of domestic melodrama we know from television series. When Alan and Rob try to come to an understanding in the long penultimate scene, so many bits of psychology come out, some creepier than the playwright seems to understand, that the conversation ceases to make much sense and any reconciliation would seem unearned. Parnell never deals with what to me seemed to be a major problem for these couples -- one member had a conventional, demanding career and one was a freelance artist with a lot of free time. Everyone is financially comfortable, so money is never an issue. Parnell touches on the differences between the liberated gay world of the seventies and the new married world (the gay families vacation on Fire Island, the Mecca for gay sex and have to find ways to explain to their children what the men are doing in the bushes), but doesn't dig deeply into the problem of what it means to be gay in the twenty-first century -- what gay men have lost in gaining rights (in some states) and marriage
The principle theme of the play is the commonality of gay and straight families. As Julia, an unhappily married actress says to Rob, "And I thought it was women who were supposed to have it all. Turns out it's you guys. Well, we'll see what comes from that." Unfortunately, what comes from that in DADA WOOF PAPA HOT is a mildly enjoyable play that travels over familiar ground.