Every so often, a play comes along which reminds us of why we love the theater so much. For in it, we find moments of enlightenment and truth which transform us into better people. We walk out, deeply moved, challenged, and changed by what we have just seen. Terrance McNally’s new Broadway offering, Mothers and Sons is such a piece.
The play opens in the elegant apartment of Cal Porter (Frederick Weller), shared with his significantly younger husband, Will Ogden (Bobby Steggart), and their adopted son, Bud Odgen-Porter (Grayson Taylor). Cal is making small talk with an unexpected visitor, Ms. Katherine Gerard (Tyne Daly). Katherine is the mother of Porter’s former lover, Andre. Years before, Andre was a promising stage actor whose life, like many gay men of his era, was snuffed out by the AIDS epidemic. Even after twenty years, an unfulfilled personal life coupled with the shame of a homosexual son is too much for Katherine to bear and she has come to their home to air her grievances, frustration, and disapproval. Meanwhile, Cal and Will remain proud of the lives they have led.
The subject of parental discontent over sexuality is too often drawn in shades of black and white. Here, there is proper room for gray. What is most humanizing about McNally’s script is that it does not vilify Katherine. It could simply portray her as rigid and unforgiving, and yet Tyne Daly has provided us with well-rounded matron of complexity, sure to resonate with many theatergoers. If a look is worth a thousand words, Ms. Daly is giving us the entire Wikipedia in 90 minutes. Her fellow co-stars shine equally in this sympathetic, heartfelt, and timely play about facing uncertainty and forging forgiveness.
Mothers and Sons is now playing on Broadway at the Golden Theater 252 West 45th Street between Broadway and 8th avenue. For tickets, call 212-239-6200, online at www.telecharge.com, or go to the box office.