Saturday, June 22, 2024

'Tiny Father' Makes A Huge Impact At Geffen


(l-r) Tiffany Villarin and Maurice Williams
Photo by Jeff Lorch

By Darlene Donloe 

When we first meet Daniel, it’s admittedly on what he calls one of his “worst days.”

The scene in ‘Tiny Father’ now playing through July 14, in the Gil Cates Theater at The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, is in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) in the hospital where he’s just become a father to a baby girl, he will name Sophia. 

Being a father was not on Daniel’s agenda. He was having carnal fun in a “friends with benefits” relationship with a 36-year-old Japanese woman who, to his chagrin – got pregnant. 

Here he is in the hospital with his baby mama, who has had difficulty giving birth, and his newborn daughter who was born with several defects. The first time he sees his micro-preemie baby, he utters the words, ‘She looks fucked up,’ due to all the tubes coming out of her and her tiny premature body lying motionless in an isolette. But now he must face some hard facts. He is forced to choose between becoming the sole caregiver to his biological child - becoming her father – or running away from his responsibility.

The night nurse who is taking care of Daniel’s baby is Caroline, a no-nonsense, by-the-book sort, who is keen on doing her job and doing it well. Through it all, Caroline, who isn’t happy about being away from her family at night, must deal with her domestic issues concerning her husband who isn’t raising their two children the way she would like. 

With the help of Caroline (Tiffany Villarin), Daniel (Maurice Williams), who knows nothing about babies, learns to navigate the protocols and frustrations of NICU life on his uncertain path to parenthood. 

Chinese-American Playwright Mike Lew has written a 90-minute sometimes funny, mostly heartfelt play where growth is measured in more than grams.  The details of the relationship between the baby's mother and Daniel feel like voyeurism on the audience member’s part. 

Maurice Williams
Photo by Jeff Lorch

Daniel and Caroline initially clash, but eventually mellow out (a bit) as time goes on.

Daniel doesn’t want anything to do with the baby. In his mind, he doesn’t have time to be a responsible parent. He just wanted to have sex. Still, he makes an effort by showing up at the hospital frequently – eventually developing a loving relationship with the baby.

Caroline tells Daniel that the baby will probably be in the hospital for a minimum of three months – a proclamation that he finds hard to swallow. Although the mother has medical insurance, Daniel, a freelance bookstore event planner, doesn’t have insurance but still bemoans the possibility that he may have to come out of pocket with a lot of money.

Days, weeks, and months go by demonstrated by bold, black numbers flashed on the left and right sides of the stage as we see Daniel gradually transform. 

Lew has written a touching play about a real issue concerning maturity, love, responsibility, and the human condition. 

Director Moritz Von Stuelpnagel’s skillful direction is forever in motion, especially with the stage, which rotates between scenes. Kudos go out to David Meyer for his authentic scenic design. The flashing numbers both downstage right and downstage left are a keen way to keep the audience aware of the time endured in the hospital by baby Sophia, Daniel, and Caroline. 

(l-r) Tiffany Villarin and Maurice Williams
Photo by Jeff Lorch

But it’s the relationship between Daniel and Caroline that brings this play to life. Both Tiffany Villarin, who plays Caroline, and Maurice Williams, who plays Daniel – are magical to watch with their dramatic, sometimes comedic verbal ping-pong match that plays out effortlessly in this dramedy. The stellar performances of Williams and Villarin force the audience to feel – something. They don’t necessarily tell you what to feel – but if anyone has a pulse – they can't help but feel the very real drama of the situation. 

Villarin’s turn as a NICU nurse is spot-on, and Williams meets her toe-to-toe with his interpretation of a hard-nosed, confused, torn yet determined man facing uncertainty.

‘Tiny Father’ is a giant success! 

‘Tiny Father,’ written by Mike Lew (Teenage Dick, Tiger Style!) and directed by Mortiz Von Stuelpnagel (Tony Award-nominated), stars Maurice Williams (The Vince Staples Show, Entergalactic) and Tiffany Villarin (…what the end will be, Do You Feel Anger?). 

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), O (oh, yeah), and E (excellent), ‘Tiny Father’ gets and E (excellent).

‘Tiny Father,’ Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, 8 p.m. Wed.,-Fri., 3 and 8 p.m. Sat., 2 and 7 p.m. Sun., through July 14; $30-$129; 310 208-2028 or online at



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