Daddy Issues Review – A Son’s Dilemma

James Seifert, Solly Werner, Josh Nadler, and Noa Lev-Ari in DADDY ISSUES - Photo by Charles Blondeau
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Written and directed by David Goldyn, DADDY ISSUES makes its West Coast premiere at the Dorie Theatre @ The Complex in Hollywood. The production originally opened off-Broadway in 2016. To quote the author during a recent interview: “After five different productions, you learn what works and what has to be changed. I think the script is in its best shape ever…many of the reviews in a glowing way alluded to it having major sit-com potential.” Playwright Goldyn freely admits that the play was inspired by his real-life family and hurdles which they had to overcome.

James Seifert and Sherry Michaels – Photo by Charles Blondeau

Set in 1982 New York, DADDY ISSUES raises the big question: How far will a gay guy go to please his controlling Jewish parents? Donald Moscowitz (James Seifert) is a struggling actor who just can’t seem to please his parents, Sid (Jonathan Fishman) and Marion (Pamela Shaw) or – for that matter – his aging grandmother (Sherry Michaels). He has the proverbial three strikes against him – he is an unsuccessful actor; he is gay; and he has not provided his family with an heir apparent. When his homophobic father makes a brief visit to tell his son the good news – that Donald’s successful high school friend has just presented his family with a son – Donald decides to fight back. Soon, he is regaling his father with the fiction that he recently found out that he has a ten-year-old son by a former high school girlfriend. His parents and grandmother are ecstatic about the news and demand to meet the youngster forthwith. Soon the fiction must become reality.

Pamela Shaw and Solly Werner – Photo by Charles Blondeau

Donald’s best friends, drag queen by night Levi Krauss (Josh Nadler) and zaftig Henrietta (Noa Lev-Ari) help him concoct a tale to rival the best of Shakespeare. Former girlfriend Mary Ellen will bring Donald’s son Ryan to meet the family. And little Ryan? He will be played by Donald’s neighbor’s son, cunning Johnny Walker (Solly Werner) – for a fee, of course. And what about Mary Ellen? Soon a tug of war ensues as the squabbling Levi and Henrietta can’t decide who will be the better mom. Finally, the dust settles and the perfect cover story is ready for the unsuspecting Moscowitz family. What could possibly go wrong?

Solly Werner, James Seifert, Josh Nadler, and Noa Lev-Ari – Photo by Charles Blondeau

DADDY ISSUES has an intricate plot with all the hallmarks of a very funny story. The cast clearly works itself into the ground trying to make every line uproarious. Probably the most ridiculous – and amusing – character is Josh Nadler, who is over-the-top as the lanky, throaty drag queen done up with sequins and feathers. The most interesting character may be Solly Werner, who makes his professional acting debut at the age of nine as Johnny Walker. It’s always fun to watch a ballsy kid learning the ropes. Sad to say, despite everyone’s best efforts, DADDY ISSUES suffers from stereotyped characters and clichéd situations which are so far from reality that they seem to be on another planet. The essence of good theater lies in large part with the audience’s ability to relate to and feel for the characters. On this measure, DADDY ISSUES offers one-dimensional people who don’t seem very funny at all. In translating real-life events into drama, the author may have distanced himself a little too far from reality. DADDY ISSUES is a noble effort which may require some further tweaking.

James Seifert and Hannah Battersby – Photo by Charles Blondeau

DADDY ISSUES runs through November 13, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 5 p.m. on Sundays. There will be one extra performance at 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 20. The Dorie Theatre @ The Complex is located at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038. Tickets range from $35 to $50 (seniors, Jewish, gay discount $30). For information and reservations, go online.

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