Last month, I attended an Off-Broadway play in SoHo titled “Man of the House.” The play is written, directed, and produced by Andre Davis. I was invited to this play by a friend in the mental health community, acutely tuned into the Domestic Violence crisis plaguing our society. Given my friend’s role as an advocate in the mental health community in NYC, he suggested I join him for the final showing of “Man of the House” for a Domestic Violence month outing.
My friend is a survivor of Domestic Violence. Given the unfortunate experiences he has survived, he is very aware of the spaces in which mental health and domestic violence awareness intersect. My friend must have done his research. Mr. Davis’ play is vivid, gut-wrenching, and laugh-out-loud funny. “Man of the House” is not only entertaining. “Man of the House” is an essential addition to the canon of available theatre, highlighting the power, control, and manipulative behaviors at play (pun intended) when the man is the victim of Domestic Violence.
Relationship abuse occurs across a broad spectrum of the population. In the Mental health community, male victims are often not seen, afraid, or embarrassed to speak out, or even worse, unaware of the extent and seriousness of their victimization. In Mr. Davis’ play, the perpetrator was the protagonist (James) ‘s girlfriend, Kesi, a native of East Harlem, singer, and songwriter. James, Kesi, and the entire cast were, bar none, the most talented entertainers I have seen in a Broadway, albeit, ‘Off-Broadway” stage play. The level, intensity, and insidiousness of the emotional abuse dominating the play’s scenes are telling. In the space, Kesi exerts undue power over James. The power and control are so believable; I was re-experiencing the abuse I experienced while dating a person with a mental health disorder.
From the name-calling, humiliation, and threats, I empathized with the protagonist as the scenes unfolded. The dominance of Kesi’s very presence made her a believable and scornful abuser seeking complete control of their relationship. As a social worker, mental health therapist, and victim of relationship abuse, I understood why Mr. Davis’ play is so important. Until “Man of the House” was produced, the canon of plays highlighting DM issues was ancillary and irrelevant. As a social worker and therapist, I greatly admired Mr. Davis’ skillful and theatrical transposition of real-to-life DM issues in the format and scale of a Broadway stage play.
The play did a superb job highlighting the importance of a support system for the main character. It evidenced, through brilliant acting, singing, and dancing, how the outcomes for people experiencing DM improves when victims have the support of their friend, family, and community. I highly recommend “Man of the House” for a head-turning, entertaining, and learning experience for people in abusive relationships.