Friday, May 9, 2014

Review - Mothers and Sons

I've been a fan of Terrence McNally for years - I've seen so many of his plays and have loved them (plus, he's a warm and wonderful man).  The Stendhal Syndrome remains one of my favorite theatrical experiences ever.  Tyne Daly is one of my very favorite actresses ever.  I met Frederick Weller a million and a half years ago and have enjoyed his work ever since.  Bobby Steggart breaks my heart each time I see him onstage.  So, all the stars were aligned for me to see and enjoy Mothers and Sons.  I picked up a ticket via TDF before the Tony noms came out and lucked into a fantastic seat in the first row of the mezzanine for last night's performance.

I suppose I should say I was predisposed to enjoy the production and perhaps I was so moved because of my own backstory and predisposition that I can't really honestly evaluate the play.  Oh well.  All I know is I was a weepy mess for 90 beautiful minutes.  Like the characters in the play, I've lost loved ones to AIDS.  I pray for loved ones who are HIV positive.  I grieve for a whole generation of young men who disappeared.  So perhaps it doesn't even matter how the play worked as a 'play.'  All those people I love and all those people I never got to meet are memorialized beautifully on the Golden Theatre's stage. 

photo credit: Joan Marcus
The play imagines a meeting between a mother, her dead son's lover, the lover's now-husband and their seven-year-old son.  Tyne Daly beautifully captures so many layers to this woman, "Andre's mother," which is how she has seen herself for years.  Rarely do people ever refer to her as Katherine.  She's been trapped in time, unable to move on from his death.  Now that her husband, who she never really loved, has died, she is completely unmoored.  The question of 'who am I now' pervades everything in the play.  Daly is a genius at presenting a woman with charm, rage, bigotry and fear - she doesn't judge the woman's foibles, she just presents a real, recognizable human being.  She uses the occasion of her husband's death to come to her son's lover's apartment for...what?  Forgiveness?  Revenge?  Understanding?  I don't think she knows herself why she's there, but Daly is amazing with her subtext of 'this should be my son's life. maybe.' as she wanders around the amazing apartment John Lee Beatty has designed.

photo credit: Joan Marcus
Life has moved on for Cal, her son's lover, sensitively played by Frederick Weller, though I do think he comes off as trying too hard to appear older than he is.  He is also hiding anger and guilt, and Katherine's appearance has brought it to the surface.  He's very good about finding the shifts between shouting about past hurts, and gently trying to ease her pain.  He knows what he's lost and what he's gained, and his struggle to justify the two is very poignant.  Bobby Steggart is again heartbreaking as an obtuse younger man who came of age in a different generation.  His entitlement and his fear of totally different things was really sad to me - his gentle demeanor hid someone who would do anything to keep what he has.  The young boy who played the son was perhaps a tad too precocious for me, and sometimes hard to understand, but he was also quite honest.  And the final moments of the play between him and Tyne Daly just put me over the edge.  

photo credit: Joan Marcus
Play-construction-wise, I did think some of the ways used to get certain characters out of the room so we could have a two-person conversation was a tad clumsy, and I also thought the director could've brought more urgency to some of the conversations that had to happen before people re-entered the room.  At times, there was a little too much telling instead of showing, but these are really quibbles as far as I'm concerned.  I should also mention, with all my talk of how moved and weepy I was, there was also a lot of laughter.  I laughed and smiled quite a bit, as well as smiled through my tears.  I was just monumentally moved by this story and I think it's a story that needs to be told.  How the world has changed, but how we shouldn't forget what came before.  For me, the 90 minutes flew by and I was so grateful we still have Terrence McNally around to tell these stories. 

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