If Adam Lazarus wanted to make us live the shame and horror of a Type A misogynist by writing a play centred on a man’s relationship with his daughter, he has certainly succeeded. Whether one wants to sit through Daughter is another question altogether.
An outstanding performer and artistic director of the Festival of Clowns, Lazarus has, along with Ann-Marie Kerr, Jivesh Parasram and Melissa D’Agostino, created a show that, contrary to its title, is all about men and their possessive, violent and demeaning attitudes toward women. Especially, it seems, where their daughters are concerned.
Lazarus, for whom the fourth wall has never existed, is expert at drawing in an audience, calling for judgment about whether it was wrong for a father to push his three-year-old into her bed, or asking for a definition of gang-banging versus orgies. Soon we are all complicit.
You find yourself wishing for a little censorship as he delves deeper, with plenty of detail, into his character’s pornographic obsessions, a debauched trip to Japan to find how to debase women in that culture and a horrific scene of violence against a 16-year-old girlfriend begging to be hit.
Lazarus’s man is very specific: a Toronto “lower middle-class Jew” who frequents Filmore’s strip bar and hires prostitutes. But his 70-minute confessional is guaranteed to make everyone, male or female, guilty or not, squirm in their seats.
My 36-year-old male companion assured me such men exist. Recent headlines underscore that fact. But it seems this show about “toxic masculinity” is trying to say all men have this capacity, even tendency, to demean and hurt girls and women, which is simply not true.
If the aim of Daughter was to create awareness and to educate young men, it has sadly missed the mark. Such a show was produced by Montreal writer/musician/theatre performer Norman Nawrocki in 1993. It was a one-man anti-sexist, sex-positive show responding to widespread date rape and violence against women. Nawrocki toured college and university campuses for years with I Don’t Understand Women.
It is hard in the end to discern what the point of Daughter is. It has been labelled darkly satirical, but to what end? We already know way more than we needed to know about misogyny in all its contemporary modes. If Daughter is a cry for help, it’s not one many would answer.
All I know for sure is that I wish I had stayed home instead of going to see it.
Written and performed by Adam Lazarus
Directed by Ann-Marie Kerr
Co-produced by The Theatre Centre and QuipTake with Pandemic Theatre
At The Theatre Centre, Toronto, through November 19
Photo of Adam Lazarus by Alejandro Santiago