“Diamonds and Rust” with Daniel’s Husband from Ronnie Larsen Presents

Robert Koutras, Ryan Didato in Daniel’s Husband at The Foundry in Wilton Manors. Photo courtesy The Foundry

By Britin Haller

 “What happens when love isn’t enough?” is the question Daniel’s Husband poses to us in the newest production by Ronnie Larsen Presents and the Plays of Wilton. Currently running at The Foundry through June 16th, Daniel’s Husband is centered around a gay couple, but its theme is universal. Live each day as if it’s your last—because it very well might be.

This award-winning play, written and directed by the talented Michael McKeever, was first performed in 2015 here in South Florida and then had a run Off-Broadway. The set, impeccably decorated also by McKeever, is something out of a 1970s interior design magazine. And what a record album collection to feast your eyes upon!

We open on Daniel Bixby and his “husband” Mitchell Howard throwing a small dinner party in their tastefully appointed abode. Mitchell is a published author of pulpy romance, “I’m the 21st century gay equivalent of Barbara Cartland,” he announces. His agent, Barry, is joining them for the evening, along with Barry’s new “boy toy” of the month, Trip. It becomes obvious very quickly Barry and Trip are not suited for each other. For one thing, Trip is half Barry’s age, but more importantly, they have nothing in common.

Robert Koutras, Barbara Sloan, Ryan Didato in Daniel’s Husband at The Foundry in Wilton Manors. Photo courtesy The Foundry

During dessert conversation, Trip innocently asks why Daniel and Mitchell aren’t married yet, opening up a can of worms. Mitchell reacts in a way making us wonder where all of that is coming from. In a nutshell, Mitchell clearly doesn’t understand why even though he and Daniel have been together for seven years, and Mitchell promised his love for life, that’s not good enough for anyone, especially Daniel.

The evening ends, and life goes on, and Daniel’s mom Lydia comes to visit for a while, and she also pushes Mitchell to get married to her son. And again, Mitchell reacts not so well to the idea. And then, something major happens, which is quite an unexpected shock. But to do the show justice, no specific details will be given. Suffice it to say, Mitchell and Lydia are pitted against each other in a very big way when Daniel suffers a tragedy there’s no coming back from. Mitchell has to learn to live with the consequences of his choice to not tie the knot.

Barry is Mitchell’s loyal agent and friend, and Jordon Armstrong is perfect in the role. He’s pretty much dry throughout, and Armstrong drops those one-liners like he’s headlining at a local comedy club. Anyone would be lucky to have a friend like Barry.

The cast of Daniel’s Husband at The Foundry in Wilton Manors. Photo courtesy The Foundry

As Trip, there is only one adequate word for Kevin Veloz, and that’s adorable. Like you just want to pinch his cheeks adorable. With his glasses on, Veloz resembles Harry Potter. After Barry ends their relationship, we think we will never see him again. But we’re happy when he returns, even under such terrible circumstances. Anyone would be lucky to have a boyfriend like Trip.

Barbara Sloan is the well-manicured clotheshorse Lydia Bixby, Daniel’s domineering narcissistic mother who has somehow managed to make having a gay son all about herself. She was so happy when she realized Danny was gay because they make the most attentive sons, much better than the non-gay ones, she tells us.

Lydia is a real piece of work who drips money, thinks butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, and is still badmouthing Daniel’s father 12 years after his death. She claims she’s not a villain, and this is not the time for that discussion because there will likely be some audience members on her side with a lot more not.

Barbara Sloan in Daniel’s Husband at The Foundry in Wilton Manors. Photo courtesy The Foundry

Regardless, it’s a credit to Sloan’s portrayal that she hits a perfect sweet spot of just enough ambiguity to give us pause. And her timing when everyone knows she’s about to pull the next-of-kin card, as well as the “I told you so” card, but then doesn’t; that moment hangs in the air like the unspoken elephant in the room. The success of that is due to Sloan’s experience. It’s one thing to hear dialogue the actor gives us, but to hear the inner dialogue the actor isn’t even saying out loud, but only the character is thinking, that’s real talent. Excellent work by Sloan.

Robert Koutras stars as Daniel the architect who exists mostly to love and be loved. Koutras is wonderful here portraying Daniel as a sweet gentle soul who wants nothing more than to pledge his love publicly for Mitchell and to take the oath of marriage.

After his agonizing monologue, a plot twist in the second half results in Koutras having very little dialogue. But holding perfectly still while your scene partner goes for an acting award right next to you is often harder than memorizing page after page of dialogue. Robert Koutras, we see you!

But it’s Ryan Didato as Mitchell who is the soul of the show. He’s mesmerizing. The guilt, the anguish, the sadness, the hurt, the anger, the love; one would be hard-pressed to come up with an emotion he doesn’t emote over the course of the evening. His monologue to us is lovely and being so up close to see his tears is gut-wrenching.

Robert Koutras, Ryan Didato in Daniel’s Husband at The Foundry in Wilton Manors. Photo courtesy The Foundry

And it’s not by accident a box of Mitchell’s books entitled Boy Lost is on display for most of the show, because Didato, as Mitchell, really is a lost boy. When we are finally allowed a glimpse into Daniel and Mitchell’s inner sanctum for a moment in their final scene, it would likely be difficult to find a dry eye in the audience.

Set construction is by Melqui Dominguez (don’t miss his hysterical bio in the playbill!) and Emma Garcia Seeger pulls triple duty as stage manager, running lights and sound and being costume coordinator.

Music and lighting design are vital to this production and under the capable hands of Stuart Meltzer and Gabriel Gonzalez are a success. Pre-show songs by Freddy Mercury, and a Judas Priest cover of this reviewer’s favorite song, Joan Baez’s Diamonds and Rust lend to the ambiance and provide a nice full-circle moment with these lyrics…

“Well, I’ll be damned,
Here comes your ghost again,
But that’s not unusual,
It’s just that the moon is full,
And you happened to call.”

In the end, Daniel’s Husband proves you don’t need a piece of paper to be family in your heart, and that sometimes the family we create ourselves is better than the one we get assigned to.

So have those important talks with your loved ones, get those legal documents signed, and go see Daniel’s Husband while you still have time.

Britin Haller is an editor for Turner Publishing, Inc. Her latest novel is Dumpster Dying by Michelle Bennington, available where books are sold. Find Britin across social media and at Charadebooks.com.

Daniel’s Husband plays through Sunday, June 16th, at The Foundry, 2306 Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors; Show dates and times vary. Running time approx. 85 minutes with no intermission. Tickets start at $37.50. Call 954-826-8790, or visit playsofwilton.com.


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