Mothers and Sons
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Mothers and Sons: In brief
Tyne Daly plays a mother coming to terms with her dead son's ex-lover, who has moved on and started a family. Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall) directs the new play by multiple–Tony Award winner Terrence McNally. The cast includes the always appealing Bobby Steggert and Frederick Weller.
Mothers and Sons: Theater review by Adam Feldman
The growing normalcy of gay life in America poses a problem for playwrights like Terrence McNally, whose work has often centered on marginalization. Perhaps that’s one reason that McNally’s output has been so unsteady in recent years; the righteous drive that impelled him during the AIDS crisis had shifted into neutral. The sincere drama Mothers and Sons marks a return to familiar territory—the play is a follow-up to McNally’s 1988 playlet (and 1990 telecast) Andre’s Mother, in which a woman hovers at her gay son’s memorial service—and also a return to form. Though dated at times, and shaded with passive aggression, this is arguably McNally’s best play in 20 years.
Two decades after Andre’s funeral, his mother, Katharine (Daly), appears without warning at the expensive Central Park West apartment that Andre’s erstwhile boyfriend, Cal (the rangy, engaging Weller), now shares with his younger husband (a loose, comfy Steggert) and their six-year-old son (Grayson Taylor). Rigid and tetchy, Katharine has ostensibly come to return Andre’s old diary to Cal—but she is also, in the wake of her own recent widowhood, struggling with isolation and guilt. It is her turn to be on the margins, and McNally generally resists the urge to gloat; even as he squeezes her for contrition, he treats her with dramatic noblesse oblige and a nod to the cruelty of time’s eraser. (“Take as many as you want,” Cal tells her as they look through old photos of Andre. “We’re the only two people in the world they mean anything to.”) Sensitively directed by Sheryl Kaller, Mothers and Sons rarely lags as it unfurls in a single unbroken scene. And Daly’s commanding performance helps check McNally's impulses toward pop sociology and reverse nostalgia. She has the strength and give of melting steel.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
THE BOTTOM LINE McNally lets an old gorgon turn herself out of stone.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam