Review: This ‘Daddy’ Has Issues. A Pool and Alan Cumming, Too.

Jeremy O. Harris, the author of “Slave Play,” has written another sexually and racially charged work, but one that ends up overwrought.

Comments: 12

  1. I saw the show on Sunday night and completely concur with Mr. Brantley’s assessment. As I exited the Signature Center into the beginnings of a snowstorm, I wasn’t sure what to think about the play—but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since, which I suppose is exactly what good theatre is meant to do. While the performances are never less than compelling (I was a bit more taken with Peet and Woodard than Mr. Brantley, but his description of Cumming is dead on), I never felt like this play was focused enough. Compelling as an evening out, sure, but not as a fully cohesive piece of theatre.

  2. @Matthew MacDermid Your ultimate conclusion about this play is how I finally felt about "Slave Play". Mr. Brantley is surely correct to call Mr. Harris "seriously talented". But it seems that ideas determine the playwright's characters rather than the other way around, which I think makes for more involving theater.

  3. Scenic design by Matt Saunders, costume design by Montana Levi Blanco, lighting design by Isabella Byrd, and sound design by Lee Kinney.

  4. @John McDermott Thanks. It would help to have this times review come up when I search the designers.

  5. Agree. It's very very early work by a very talented writer. I think it's well worth seeing, but it does contain everything including the world's biggest kitchen sink.

  6. The key word in this review of DADDY appears in the first sentence, “turgid.” Turgid is defined as “inflated, overblown, or pompous; bombastic: turgid language.”

  7. We only made it through two of the three acts. Despite the inundation of verbiage, and the gloss of theatrical gimmicks, it just seemed the play had nothing insightful to say about anything, and the characters were either sitcom caricatures or blanks.

  8. Student work, literally--the playwright is still at Yale Drama School. It's a big cast for off-B'way these days, not to mention the demands of the set with the pool. Not sure how he wrangled all of that. The shiny newness of the beginner, I guess. I left midway through. The nudity was so endless as to become boring. The two young friend characters serve no purpose at all. Meantime a literate and worthwhile play like "Hurricane Diane" (by Pulitzer-nominated Madeleine George) languishes far downtown.

  9. Is the theater section an echo chamber of the mediocrity of New York’s intellectual theater elite? From this review, and the comments thus far, it’s pretty clear that Ben Brantley and the sea of white haired white folks that looked with shock at this play refused to listen or see the complex intersectionality of the play (if they even understand that term). As theater moves forward with a new generation of artists that want to bring the conversations of race, class, sexuality, sex, gender, religion, and art that we are all having outside theater into theater, it’s clear that the bourgeois are not having it. Theater about queer characters will move in this direction whether you like it or not, away from cliches and tired narratives that exclude people of color (or fetishize them). Please go speak and learn from the writers of color on staff at the NYTimes or make space for folks that don’t want to put on blinders when they see theater. This publication is obviously resistant to the bold conversations millennial theater makers want to bring to their work. Get with the times.

  10. @Come On your critique of society is of course, accurate, but doesn't apply here. this play and production was just plain bad.

  11. Briefly, I think audiences go to Black theater primarily to feel rather than think, primarily to feel pity. It's an addiction. It's safe, it's a cry, and it can feel like work, even empathy. Aristotle essentially says it's not enough to feel pity. One must also feel fear. Pity and fear turn in on themselves. The observer becomes the observed. How? Through an epiphany, gained through logic. If you don't follow Jeremy's calibrated logic, you miss the magic of his work. (Just look how a conversation about salt for a meal progresses to a cultural and personal riff. Or how the Black dolls mutate and and grow and even one, is White, with a smudged out face). Andre may pet Franklin on the head, repeatedly, and call him my little Naomi. But Mr. Harris refuses to let you do that to his play.

  12. I too made it through only the first two acts...with difficulty. This was cliched and empty. and the dialogue is so half-baked as to be cringe-inducing in places. whereas Slave Play was overwrought and contrived, Daddy is was like lesser Tennessee Williams without the whiffs of poetry and emotion. so far, I don't understand the avalanche of support and praise for Mr. Harris's writing. Directing was just textbook blocking with gimmick after gimmick.