sfl-south-florida-dot-com-logo

There is a sense of great balance and completeness with Island City Stage’s world premiere of “Daniel’s Husband,” playing through June 28 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

The play about same-sex marriage (and a few other things) may be a fleet 80 intermission-free minutes, but the Davie-based playwright Michael McKeever has managed to create a world of wit, wisdom and woe.

‘Daniel’s Husband’
Antonio Amadeo, Alex Alvarez, Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic star in Island City Stage’s “Daniel’s Husband,” through June 28 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale. (Robert Figueroa/Courtesy)
Actually, “create” isn’t quite right, for “Daniel’s Husband” is carved as much as it is written. McKeever’s insight on the topic is neatly chiseled from the bedrock of Florida politics without actually dipping into that swampy mire. Every conversation, monologue and sideways glance reveals another facet of his sculpture. The humor froths to the surface naturally. It never feels like tacked-on flourish. It isn’t until the play is over, and you see how far you’ve come to get to the finish, that you realize how unaware you were of the deft theatric craft of the cast, crew and design team. In the meantime, you just react with everything you have.

At the start of the show, Mitchell Howard (Antonio Amadeo) and his longtime partner, Daniel Bixby (Alex Alvarez), are throwing a small dinner party where the campy-tinged banter soon turns to “gay marriage.” One of the guests, Barry Dylon (Larry Buzzeo), is a longtime friend, so he knows trouble is coming. But Barry’s date, Trip (Kristian Bikic), is baffled when Mitchell comes out of the closet as a virulent opponent of gays and lesbians getting married.

“I don’t understand,” Trip says. “How can you not believe in it? It’s not Santa Clause.”
That’s when Mitchell really lets loose, stepping up on a figurative soapbox and railing against becoming as “ordinary as the straights” and pooh-poohing the concomitant benefits of a legally sanctioned relationship. Later on, when Daniel’s mother, Lydia Bixby (Laura Turnbull), stops by for one of her tornadolike visits, she nudges the two to get married. Not that Daniel needs any convincing. He’s dying to tie the knot with Mitchell, even if he disagrees with his mother on almost everything else. After a life-changing event — nope, no spoiler here — all these characters must deal with the consequences of having and not having marriage equality.

Aided by carefully paced direction from Andy Rogow, the cast is spellbinding. The characters are intensely likable one moment and unfathomably complicated the next.

Masterpiece? Maybe. But “Daniel’s Husband” is certainly a work of profoundly moving art.

“Daniel’s Husband” is running through June 28 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $30. To order, call 954-519-2533 or go to IslandCityStage.org.