Review: 'Dada Woof Papa Hot' is a tender, well-acted play

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2015 8:04 PM
Review: 'Dada Woof Papa Hot' is a tender, well-acted play

NEW YORK (AP) — Adjusting to being a caregiver is challenging enough for new parents, even before you add the complexities that come with being a gay parent.

Peter Parnell, recently author of the book for "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever" on Broadway, is also a screenwriter, and has written a tender domestic comedy called "Dada Woof Papa Hot" about the joys and trials of being a gay father in contemporary New York City.

Staged with smooth economy by Scott Ellis, a pleasing production opened Monday night off-Broadway at Lincoln Center's thrust-stage Mitzi Newhouse Theater.

Gay and straight parents exchange confidences and advice about raising their young children, and we see the results on their relationships and sense of self as they evolve over a year. There is plenty of frank dialogue about sexuality, too, amid the parenting- and relationship-related conversations.

Patrick Breen and John Benjamin Hickey play a married pair of middle-aged dads, whose still-loving relationship has naturally altered since the arrival of their now 4-year-old daughter Nikki in similar ways to those experienced by straight parents. Breen wears a confident, loving air as psychologist Rob, who absolutely adores fatherhood, while Hickey makes insecure Alan into a likeable mope. Annoyed that he's apparently less-favored by Nikki than Rob is, Alan reminds Rob that he didn't really want to have a child and reminisces about the days when they did a lot of traveling.

They make friends and compare notes with a pair of dads in their mid-30s, portrayed by Stephen Plunkett and Alex Hurt. Hurt, whose character Jason is a carefree throwback to sexually promiscuous gay men, at times seems a little uncomfortable in his role. Jason's promiscuity also seems to be at odds with everyone else's apparent domesticity, although a few other possible infidelities creep into the story.

Alan and Rob also swap parenting strategies with Alan's best friend Michael, (a delightfully down to earth John Pankow), and his controlling wife, Serena (Kellie Overbey, bright and brisk). Tammy Blanchard portrays another straight mom at the playground, and both the moms are often shown yelling at their kids or their babysitter, even when, in Serena's case, the sitter is her mother.

Parnell accurately covers commonalities between gay and straight parenting, even as he also delves into differences. One character, pondering the challenges facing young gay men and women who have some tough realities to face after winning the battle to get married and have kids, muses out loud, "And being married will still mean dividing time between work and being a parent, and between loving one person and loving a number of people, and between being independent and being tied down."

As the couples struggle with their relationships while trying to be good parents, Alan works through some of his parental fears in a sweet analogy to "Peter and the Wolf" that any parent can relate to.