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Mothers and Sons

Why haven't you been punished?—Katharine

Mothers and Sons
Annette Miller
Nothing like an unannounced visitor to set one's teeth on edge, as Cal Porter (Bill Mootos) and Will Ogden (David Gow) discover when Katharine Gerard (Annette Miller) shows up at their posh upper west side New York apartment. Though their home is immaculate, it is the proverbial "dirty laundry" of seething anger and hidden resentment which Katharine unleashes that drives Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons at Shakespeare and Company's Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre.

Katharine's son Andre, dead for almost 20 years due to AIDS-related complications, was once Cal's partner. She has never accepted Andre's homosexuality, his death or Cal's survival and subsequent successful life. Since Katharine's snub at Andre's memorial service – "It was a bit too gay for my taste” – much has changed in their respective lives and the world. Not only have life-saving drugs become available and gay marriage legalized, but Cal has partnered with a much younger man and lives an extremely comfortable life with their six-year-old son Bud.

McNally takes the audience on a sort of survey course of the gay life style prior to and the post- AIDS "holocaust” where a huge population of white, talented, gay men were lost. By the latter part of the 20th century the plague had killed or infected millions.

A sort of sequel to Andre's Mother, a teleplay, McNally's drama is all over the place. Its structure and content swirl incohesively to a questionable denouement as he seeks to cram various viewpoints, rationales and historic accomplishments into the evening's entertainment. Cal, Katharine and Will circle each other protecting their turf with undisguised innuendo and outright verbal attacks. Some of it is hilarious, some just wincingly mean, but it is the actors and director who make this production fly.

James Warwick, directing for the first time at Shakespeare and Company, has infused McNally's script with energy to create more of an analysis of human relationships and less a formal debate of homosexual rights and parental disapproval. His actors exemplify the time periods which they represent and are likable even in the midst of battle.

Annette Miller's Katharine controls her emotions in a vituperative, tight-lipped survey of all that Cal has achieved since Andre's death. She verbalizes the agonized question – Why did her son die and Cal escape unscathed? Katharine telegraphs her deep-seated hurt while flinging vile insults from behind her defensive wall of pretense and mink. Miller's invective is subtly layered, so that when six-year-old Bud appears, he is able to throw her off balance and briefly awaken the wounded animal within.

Bill Mootos' Cal, though happily ensconced in his new life, has suffered. He still grieves Andre, much to his younger partner's insecurity. His experiences during the plague years, nursing Andre while witnessing countless friends' deaths, have burnished his personality as a survivor and probably made him a better man. Mootos tries to be compassionate to the woman he views as vicious and uncaring; his understanding of her losses on so many levels marks him as a strong solid man, lover, and, now, father. His flashes of despair and insight propel us to understand all that has transpired in the void since Andre's death.

Will has lived through a different time period from Cal and Katharine so that his background tempers his attitudes. David Gow gives him a freshness and less scarred perspective on the AIDSplague. Though he is sympathetic he doesn't feel their pain. He is more concerned with the liberal acceptance of the gay life. Unlike Cal who never imagined he would become a father, Will always anticipated it. But Will is also challenged by Katharine's unyielding wrath and self-righteousness.

Bud (in my performance played by Hayden Hoffman) is, precocious and child-like at the same time. Being a wide-eyed, youth he is not aware of the angst that has permeated his home. He senses Katharine's pain and responds appropriately without the baggage of the other two. The young man is charming in what is not an easy role.

Patrick Brennan's fashionable living room over-looking Central Park also angers Katharine as she knew only of Cal and Andre living in a small apartment on Perry Street. The accouterments tell her of Cal's success and exacerbates the loss of her son. The design offers the cast and director comfortable playing room highlighted by James W. Bilnoski's lighting. The costumes are indicative of the lives of the characters. The men in casual, every day clothing, Katharine in a fine suit but with a fur coat bought in a second-hand store and worn to insulate her against her terrors and failures.

Director Warwick and his team have created a strong revival of McNally's paean to an historic era and the ravages it wrought.

Original review:

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Mothers and Sons by Terrence Mcnally
Directed by James Warwick
Cast: Cast: David Gow (Will Ogden) Hayden Hoffman; Evan Miller (Bud Ogden-Porter) Annette Miller (Katharine Gerard) Bill Mootos (Cal Porter)
Scenic Design: Patrick Brennan
Costume Design: Stella Schartz
Lighting Design: James W. Bilnoski
Sound Design: Erik T. Lawson
Stage Manager: Matthew Luppino
Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission
Shakespeare and Company, Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Lenox, MA
Opening: 8/16/2018; Closing: 9/292018
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at August 21, 2018 performance

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