The premise of Michael McKeever’s world premiere play at Island City Stage is fairly straightforward: A middle-aged man, who recently lost his longtime partner, wakes up one morning next to the hunky 28-year-old he picked up after a night of grief-fueled drinking at the local gay bar.
Plenty of Millennial jokes abound as Justin (Samuel Maya) nonchalantly parades naked around the studio loft that Terry Parker, also played by McKeever, shared with his former partner and husband of 30 years, Jeffrey. But the audience quickly realizes there’s much more to the story than the booze-induced hook-up and the sexy pillow talk to follow.
Terry, it turns out, put his own writing career on hold decades earlier as his artist husband began to find fame and fortune among Manhattan’s elite. With just one novel under his belt, Terry jettisoned his own aspirations to become the supportive and devoted partner.
After Jeffrey is left on life support after a tragic automobile accident, Terry refused to let go for days and, after finally giving his consent, found himself in a similar state for seven months. That is, until the night he meets Justin.
But, Terry’s story is as much about coping with his middle age as it is about heart wrenching grief over the loss of a loved one. How could a muscular, good-looking young stud like Justin be interested in him, he wonders. What could the attraction be and why does he keep coming back?
It’s Cassie (Margot Moreland), Jeffrey’s brassy sister and business manager, who has the answers Terry simply doesn’t want to hear. Some of the play’s most powerful moments occur as Cassie challenges Terry to just get over it and move on—both to the dalliance with “the child” and his emotional paralysis following Jeffrey’s death. Any sort of détente seems impossible.
Moreland and McKeever give powerful performances, thanks to the playwright’s searing dialogue and the deft direction of Michael Leeds. Maya is noticeably inexperienced—especially in the company of these particular costars—and struggles at times with the most nuanced scenes, but always manages to deliver the critical one-liners that lend this comic drama the most laughs. And, he’s gutsy enough to show off his very best assets on stage.
Also notable is the handsome set design by Ardean Landhuis. The intimate Abyss Theatre was transformed into a chic ‘80s Manhattan artist’s loft with exposed brick walls and heavy wooden beams, a smudged skylight and tiny kitchen.
Like McKeever’s 2016 award-winning gay marriage drama “Daniel’s Husband,” “Mr. Parker” struck a nerve with Island City Stage’s mature, gay male audience. Many remember those days in New York, some have lost a longtime partner, and still others have found themselves in May-December romances.
Expect to see similar productions at other LGBTQ-centric theaters across the country as word spreads about this hit new play.
Island City Stage presents the world premiere production of Michael McKeever’s “Mr. Parker” through July 15 at the Abyss Theatre, 2304 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 at IslandCityStage.org.