It is an old proverb of the emerald island that an Irishman is never at peace except when he’s fighting, and Johnny O’Callaghan’s one man show, “Who’s Your Daddy?” now at the Victory Theatre puts a shine onto that statement. The Irish born O’Callaghan has travelled the actor’s road performing in Belfast, Toronto, New York and eventually finding himself in Los Angeles. But life in L.A. soon becomes a slew of alcohol, gay clubs and jobs he hates. He waits for his break to come but depression takes the diamond lane and arrives first, bringing in tow a broken relationship, then thoughts of suicide.
So, when an actress friend invites O’Callaghan to join her on a trip to Uganda where she is doing a documentary on an orphanage there, O’Callaghan accepts and ten vaccinations later is bound for the East African AIDS ravaged nation, twice the size of Pennsylvania. And therein lies a tale, for arriving at the House of Hope Orphanage in the small city of Kasese, Uganda, O’Callaghan meets the last person he ever expected he would – a three year old orphan named Odin who he knew immediately was his son. In “Who’s Your Daddy?” we are shown through a rocket’s red glare of heartbreak and devastating wit, the epic battle of a Gay Irish L.A. actor’s fight to adopt his Ugandan “son”.
The world O’Callaghan hauls us through is one part Alice Through the Looking Glass and two parts Kafka’s TheCastle. No, make that one part Looking Glass and six parts Kafka’s Castle. O’Callaghan, perhaps best known for his recurring role of Niam on the TV series Stargate Atlantis, makes us feel every jerk and jolt of the nine-month rollercoaster ride from the Hell that was his life as he struggled against the corruption, bureaucracies and prejudices of Uganda. A near demonic presence on stage, O’Callaghan fills every moment of the evening with nail-biting suspense and fierce humor, keeping his audience on the edge of its seat. And what he gives his audience at the show’s end is a tale of love, hope and courage that will warm them as they walk to their parked cars on even the coldest evening.
Tom Ormeny has seen to it that O’Callaghan plays his score with all the keys available to him, thereby keeping repeated scenes of frustration with the various Ugandan agencies fresh and not repetitious. Ormeny also succeeds, superbly on the Victory’s small stage, in shifting scenes worlds apart with both clarity and distinction, ably helped in this by Lucan Melkonian’s set and lighting design by Carol Doehring.
In the final run, what O’Callaghan discovers in his ordeal, is the most compelling truth of all, which sadly, our world seems to have forgotten: that it is in giving all towards the saving of others that we find salvation ourselves.