In our modern society, what does marriage add to a relationship? Nothing, argues the titular character of Primary Stages’ new play Daniel’s Husband, that can’t be got by filling out the right paperwork. Nothing, the play argues back, except for perhaps the right to be recognized as each other’s home.
Telling a first date you plan on being the love of their life is always a risky move, but it worked out for Daniel (Ryan Spahn) and his partner Mitchell (Matthew Montelongo). Since that first date seven years ago, they’ve moved in together, and share a beautiful life in Daniel’s perfectly arranged home. The one thing they won’t share? Marriage.
As Mitchell explains to his agent and close friend, Barry (Lou Liberatore), and Barry's latest much-younger boyfriend, Trip (Leland Wheeler), he doesn’t believe in gay marriage. He doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage at all, arguing with the romantically-minded Trip that it adds nothing to a relationship. It’s a fight he and Daniel have had many times over the years, but despite this, their life together is wonderful. Their only sources of dissatisfaction are Mitchell’s waning interest in the books he writes, despite their popularity, and visits from Daniel’s overbearing mother, Lydia (Anna Holbrook). That is, until an unforeseeable tragedy twists their perfect life into a living nightmare.
Michael McKeever’s new play explores with bittersweet honesty the devastating aftermath of a life-changing disaster. From its invitingly funny opening to the unbearable hurt of its twist, Daniel’s Husband brings to the stage a uniquely raw and emotional portrayal of a modern relationship rocked by the unthinkable.
In Joe Brancato’s capable hands as a director, this truly exquisite production, heartbreaking and captivating, is a must-see this spring. As the show’s central couple, Ryan Spahn and Matthew Montelongo bring their love to life without skirting from the frictions that existed between them, grounding their relationship in a believable reality that makes it all the more beautiful. Anna Holbrook lends Daniel’s seemingly antagonistic mother a human quality that adds further complexities to the play’s already rich central conflicts.
This humanity even in the play’s most despicable character becomes one of its greatest strengths, as each character is so well-developed, and each performance so rich, it’s impossible not to be sucked into their world, not to be hopeful and heartbroken alongside them. Daniel’s Husband may be denied a wedding, but what it does give is nothing short of breathtaking.