13. WHO'S YOUR DADDY? (May 24, 2013)
Despite its title, WHO'S YOUR DADDY? at the Irish Repertory Theatre, has nothing to do with the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees, but the production does manage to get on base pretty easily. It's being staged in the teeny weeny W. Scott McClucas Studio Theatre in the Irish Rep's basement, where the cool Friday night temperature was duplicated inside, as if the a/c had been turned on during a cold wave. Luckily, much of the action is set in steamy Uganda, so the audience could imagine itself in an equatorial climate while sitting with its jackets and sweaters zippered and buttoned to the neck.
This is a one-man play written by and starring Irish-born actor Johnny Callaghan, and directed by Tom Ormeny. It had its world premiere in November 2012 at Los Angeles's Victory Theatre Center. Callaghan is a scruffy guy, with scruffy blonde hair, and a scruffy beard; he dresses in scruffy jeans and a scruffy, sleeveless T-shirt, and exudes an air of regular guy scruffiness, made more appealing to American ears by his Irish brogue. His play, based on his own experience, is set in 2006 at a time of crisis in his life after a relationship ended and his life seemed to have lost its direction. A female friend and former lover (she reminds him of who she is by lifting her shirt) ran into him in LA and asked him to bring his filmmaking skills along on a journey to Uganda, where she was making a documentary about Ugandan orphans. He says in a program note, his trip there, when the country was "rumored to be on the brink of civil war--set me free. Uganda forced me to live in the present--apathy was no longer an option--and everything seemed possible again." In Uganda, this rootless roustabout, who says he likes both men and women, but men more, found love and meaning when he became attached to a tiny Ugandan orphan, with a nose dripping multicolored mucus, who knew only one English word, "yes."
Playing multiple characters, some Ugandan, some Irish, some American, some male, some female, and one just a tot, he recaptures this nine-month period in his life when he attempted to adopt the child, known when he met him as Benson but renamed by Callaghan as Odin, after the Norse god. His tale of how he overcame the incredible red tape of Ugandan bureaucrats, as well as that of the American Embassy, is very involving. Everything he had to endure was heightened by his being gay in a country where that is something you could be killed for. The piece starts out slowly, but builds to a compelling climax as he realizes his dream and becomes a dad.
The 90-minute, intermissionless, piece is filled with humor, much of it raunchy; Callaghan's good nature grows on you and keeps you warm, even in a chilly theatre. He includes stories of his Hollywood life, his dog, his racist, chain-smoking mom (whose favorite color is "nigger brown"), and how all these threads came together to weave an emotional tapestry depicting a journey toward true parental love. There is one little Ugandan boy who definitely knows now who his daddy is, and we are all the better for knowing it as well.