DannyKrisDonnaVeronica is a captivating production about the modern family structure and the often untold truths of being a parent. Playwright Lawrence Dial explores the reality of marriage and life after children. Although it often seems taboo to speak about the visceral feelings of sadness and hopelessness associated with being a parent, Dial’s play explores the dichotomy of being completely enamored by one’s children while harboring feelings of dismay—the joys of having a family as well as those hidden, or rather, silent, moments of losing one’s identity and becoming irrelevant.
Suzy Jane Hunt and Ben Mehl as two stay-at-home parents, Kris and Danny, are persuasive as they depict the dark moments that run across a parent’s mind during the course of the day. Kris and Danny’s seemingly dire situations become manageable by finding support in each other. They meet in the park daily and discuss the events of their children’s lives; the small talk eventually leads to more intimate conversations about their dreams and traumas. It’s an asset that the actors exhibit a strong chemistry; they’re a pleasure to watch.
Jeff Wise’s direction enhances the style of the narrative. At times, one of the couples is on stage involved in the events of their day, while the other simultaneously stays on the stage, living out their lives. Much like the unwieldy title, the staging reflects interconnectedness, connections and ultimately a mishmash of the way relationships function in the real world.
As the play progresses, the couples gather for dinner when one of the children is injured accidentally at the park and Donna becomes suspicious of the “accident.” The suspicion surfaces when her daughter says that Kris’s son pushed her. They decide to meet and talk out the issue of possible hurtful intent. By the time they meet for dinner, Danny and Kris have become well acquainted. They have smoked marijuana in the park and shared intimate discourses about their fears, goals and feelings. There seems to be a spark budding between them, which is curious, considering Kris is a lesbian. Their newly found relationship provides safety, camaraderie, and understanding. Often mistaken for attraction, what Kris and Danny could have found is an escape in a friendship that fosters warmth and compassion.
Kudos to the playwright for having nontraditional couples and events in this play. Kris and Veronica (Liz Wisan) are in a same-sex marriage, with Kris being the one who had the children and the workaholic Veronica being the financial support for the family. Danny and Donna (Rachel MewBron) have a nontraditional arrangement in which Danny is the stay-at-home parent. Donna is up for a big promotion that could involve traveling and being away from home. Danny would like another child; Donna would like to focus on her career.
Set designer Brittany Vasta uses traverse staging well to give the audience, seated on opposite sides of the playing area, the sense of being voyeurs peeping in on a slice of these couples’ lives. For the park scenes, branches on the ceiling simulated trees, and benches added to the outdoors feel.
DannyKrisDonnaVeronica provides a thoughtful night at the theater. Where audiences welcome the opportunity to secretly relate, empathize and breathe as these characters come to their own realizations that life is fluid and hard, yet beautiful.
DannyKrisDonnaVeronica plays through Jan. 28 at the 4th Street Theatre (83 East 4th St., between Second Avenue and the Bowery). Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19–21 and Jan. 24–27. Matinees are at 3 p.m. Jan. 21, 22 and 28. Tickets ($18) are available online at http://bpt.me/2719482 or by calling 1-800-838-3006.