Men, don’t take your husbands to see “Dada Woof Papa Hot” at Lincoln Center Theater if either or both of you are on the fence about having children. Playwright Peter Parnell presents a candid, at times amusing look at what can happen when a child (a.k.a. The Guest Who Never Goes Home) takes over a happy gay household. Exhaustion ensues, friendships fade, libidos drop, sex becomes a chore or a bore, and desperate parents might resort to desperate measures. It turns out gay parents are just like straight ones — although at times it seems like Parnell thinks otherwise.
Rob (Patrick Breen), a therapist, and Alan (John Benjamin Hickey), a freelance writer, are a stable older married couple with a three-year-old daughter they adore. But they seem to have allowed their parental duties to take over their lives. Which makes for a charming scene when they meet up with a simpatico younger married couple, the sensible Scott (Stephen Plunkett) and his dangerously attractive mate, Jason (Alex Hurt), also doting parents.
The two couples bond over their children and are soon fast friends, arranging play dates and trading intelligence about pre-schools. An early scene that finds them at a fancy restaurant sharing baby photos and commiserating over infant reflux is pretty hilarious.
All four roles have been well cast by savvy director Scott Ellis, but Hickey’s sensitively drawn Alan seems more vulnerable than the others. He really suffers from the notion that his daughter prefers Scott to him. All it takes is some passionate groping initiated by bad-boy Jason to make Alan aware of how much of his manhood — or at least his sex life — has been sacrificed to fatherhood.
In Jason’s jaundiced view, parenthood takes all the juice out of men. If you want his honest opinion of the people you meet at a gay dads dinner, it’s that “most of the guys look like they’ve crawled out of a hole somewhere.” So it’s more than flattering when he seduces Alan; it’s validation that Alan is still a man — and a desirable sex object, at that.
Smug Rob seems to think that he and Alan enjoy the perfect marriage, having overcome “your basic love/sex split, endemic to an entire earlier generation of gay men.” But Alan’s infidelity makes him realize that his fantasy of “the old gay love story” of two people quietly, gradually, happily growing old together is just that — a fantasy. And having children doesn’t make it less so.
Parnell seems to think that gay parents have invented a new kind of parenthood. But none of the playwright’s revelations — the loss of identity, the illicit affairs, the empty bed, and all the other pains of middle-age desperation — will come as news to straight couples with children, although they might be entertained by watching other people repeat all their own mistakes.