Saturday, June 11, 2022

In ‘Mr. Parker’, Getting on With Life as You Don’t Know It

Derek Smith is the title character in “Mr. Parker,” a middle-aged gay man who must find a way to move forward in a strange world after the death of his husband. Photos by John Quilty.


“MR. Parker”
offers what at first seems like a collection of clichés but thankfully switches course to provide insight into what resilience is all about.

At Theatre Row by way of the Penguin Rep Theater until June 25, the work reveals a middle-aged gay man who finds himself adrift after the death of his artist husband, a sexy young gender non-conforming man picked up in a bar and the stylish, powerful sister of the artist. The three play effectively off of one another.

Terry Parker (Derek Smith) grapples with his loss. No longer part of the Jeff and Terry couple, he has been reduced simply to Mr. Parker by the doorman of his upscale building. Stuck and unable to move ahead, he clings to the studio emptied by the loss of his husband until a chance encounter with Justin, a bartender/Uber driver (Davi Santos), leads to a change of outlook.

The situation is both hindered and helped by Cassandra, the artist’s sister (Mia Matthews) who has managed her brother’s work and, to some extent, his and Terry’s lives. Taut, controlling Cassandra recognizes that the Justin-Terry relationship won’t benefit either man and gives it a painful, if necessary, push.

All three actors inhabit their roles with naturalness of voice, gesture and meaning. Writer Michael McKeever could have developed just as successful a script had he eliminated a little of Justin’s backstory, but overall the situation works. The world has moved on and so must these characters with a nod to cell phones, today’s gender pronouns and contemporary art.

Things heat up quickly after a chance meeting between Terry (Derek Smith) and Justin (Davi Santos) in “Mr Parker.”

Costumes by Myra Oney are particularly effective on Cassandra whose role provides the greatest opportunity to make a fashion statement. Max Silverman’s music separates elements well without overtaking them; Joe Brancato’s direction keeps sufficient tension in the air to allow the actors the scope they need to work.

Penguin Rep Theater, where “Mr. Parker” originated, has grown over 40 years from a summer theater to become one of the Hudson Valley’s most influential nonprofit cultural institutions, reaching tens of thousands of theatergoers each year at its home in upstate New York.

In New York City and beyond, its work moves to off-Broadway and to stages across the country and around the world. Penguin has presented works by playwrights, including Ronald Harwood, Arthur Laurents, Lanie Robertson and Elizabeth Swados. Andrew M. Horn, producer and executive director, has overseen nearly 200 productions for the group.

In “Mr Parker,” Justin (Davi Santos) and Terry (Derek Smith) begin a relationship that is doomed to fail and it is left to Cassandra (Mia Matthews) to sort it all out.

“Mr. Parker” isn’t grand drama but it deals head on with major life situations, including sexuality, power and loss. The story is almost entirely believable and presented by skilled actors who fully inhabit their roles. Moving on is tough but is a necessary part of life.

Visit to learn more about Mr. Parker.


Creative Commons License
VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
Based on a work at .
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at .