When a difficult long-past chapter of your life comes howling through your front door determined to disrupt your present state of domestic bliss, things get a little confronting and much soul searching and checks and balances of the heart are to be completed. This is the primary concern of McNally’s latest play where Cal Porter (Frederick Weller) is paid a visit by Katharine Gerard (Tyne Daly) the mother of his late boyfriend Adrian. Adrian died of AIDs in 1994. Katharine has much pain and anger that has fermented over the two decades since losing her son. 68-year-old Daly who propels the play beautifully conveys this passion. Mothers and Sons portrays true pathos.
Katharine doggedly holds the proverbial mirror right up to Cal who, displaying a strong conscience, holds firm that he acted in the best way possible with Adrian under the circumstances and that his new life with his partner Will (Bobby Steggert) is secure and loving but in no way invalidates or diminishes what his life was with Katharine’s son. The two men were together for 8 years.
Will is 15 years Cal’s junior. This age difference offers a good perspective on the AIDs crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s. The play also gives a perspective on the relatively recent notion of same-sex marriage and gay fatherhood. Will and Cal are fathers to a son they lovingly created with the help of a close lesbian friend. Katharine is cruel towards Cal and Will; she disapproves of their life just as she was when Cal was with Adrian 20 years prior. They play explores a mother’s disgrace, a mother unwilling to love herself and therefore others and the repercussions of this for all those around her.
It is the new generation, the very young, symbolized by their son Bud (played confidently by child actor Grayson Taylor) who has an affect between the warring son and former “mother-in-law”. There were many tender moments. The best one being when the child shared his favourite snack, an Oreo biscuit, with her. Daly’s skillful acting was on display. She used silence on stage so well and her very strong facial features portrayed deep emotion on stage. The director, Sheryl Kaller, took many risks with in her naturalistic piece. We remained in the one room for the 90 minutes of performance and there were many pauses coupled with many bursts of suppressed emotion.
Daly (best know for her popular role in the 1970s TV drama series Cagney and Lacey) did steal the show of course. Her subtle, passionate and measured left there many audience members with a lump in their throats. She was masterful. The only emotion Katharine could display was the force of revenge. She could not grieve, or forgive or move on. She yells she hates the word “closure”. Daly cleverly portrayed all the suppressed emotion that has crippled her over the years.
McNally has delivered an excellent play. His previous success Master Class was extremely well received. It is a moving piece and one which has much to say about our contemporary society.
A new play by Terrence McNally
Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th Street, New York City
Opening night: March 24th 2014.
Photos by Joan Marcus