“He died on a Tuesday,” Terry Parker (Derek Smith) tells us dispensing with the fourth wall. The 50- something gay man is referring to husband Jeffrey whose hospital death he was forced to facilitate after a terrible car accident. We meet at Jeffrey’s East Village art studio apartment to which the protagonist gravitates though the uptown Ansonia is home. It’s been seven months. Terry has withdrawn from life, or had, until last night when he shook himself out of lethargy and went to a bar.
Suddenly the bathroom door opens and handsome, 28 year-old Justin (Davi Santos) emerges nude from the shower. What?! Terry barely remembers the preceding evening and persists in calling his “guest” Kevin despite, it seems, having been repeatedly corrected. The older man is startled and uncomfortable, the younger chatty and perfectly at ease. In an age of GRINDR and TINDER he doesn’t understand the fuss.
Davi Santos (Justin), Derek Smith (Terry)
They’d agreed to spend the day in bed together, but…“We don’t really know each other,” Terry protests. Justin reels off considerable personal information shared over drinks, including the story of Jeffrey’s art. He’s fresh, open, charming (not innocent) and when asked to exit, leaves his phone number.
Jeffrey’s well heeled, type A sister, Cassie (Mia Matthews), is the third player. She’s both concerned about Terry and, always having managed her brother’s career, anxious to finalize the Whitney Museum offer of a retrospective. Legacy is a fourth character in the play, though so subtle many may miss it. On one hand, Terry angrily insists he’ll handle the potential exhibition, on the other he admits to being currently “stuck”- with all things.
Much like French cinema, Mr. Parker is a slice of life piece. One is aware of having tuned in between events. Terry and Justin haltingly begin a relationship each perceives as radically different; lives and outlooks are familiar, contemporary, credible – so credible, my gay companion cried. Cassie is wary of the young man (any very young man) and attempts to get Terry to move on…with all things.
Derek Smith (Terry), Mia Matthews (Cassie)
The play is well written, but too predictable. Situation and characters in playwright Michael McKeever’s earlier Daniel’s Wife were more interesting.
Director Joe Brancato adroitly employs a small staging space. Characters are whole. Each has a decidedly specific physical as well as emotional presence. When Terry addresses the audience, however, he seems to lose rather than gain focus – a directorial choice that impedes flow rather than enhancing intimacy. Otherwise Derek Smith inhabits the role well enough that we want to literally shake him out of inertia. Davi Santos is utterly recognizable as Justin; Mia Matthews’ Cassie manages to imbue her blade sharp persona with an underpinning of compassion.
Scenic design by David Goldstein is apt, skylight and brick wall, nice touches. Myra Oney’s costumes also “fit” with particular attention to Cassie’s enviable wardrobe and a gifted Tom Ford suit.
Photos by John Quilty
Opening: Derek Smith
As in Take Me Out, prepare to give up your smart phones during the production for discretion’s sake.
Penguin Rep Theatre presents
Mr. Parker by Michael McKeever
Directed by Joe Brancato
410 West 42nd Street
Through June 25, 2022