"Mothers & Sons" Review - An Excellently Written Must-See

This weekend, I had the opportunity to see a play that has been on my radar since Northlight Theatre announced their 2015-2016 season, Mothers & Sons, written by Terrence McNally and directed by Steve Scott. The play is centered around Katharine Gerard (Cindy Gold), who decides to make an unannounced visit to the apartment of her son’s former partner, Cal Porter (Jeff Parker), at his apartment on Central Park West in Manhattan, where he now lives with his husband, Will Ogden (Benjamin Sprunger), who is a writer, and their six-year-old son, Bud (Ben Miller) – whose own last name, Ogden-Porter, it may be argued, is symbolic of the important progress that has been made in this country.

Cindy Gold as Katharine Gerard and Jeff Parker as Cal Porter (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Though at first it seems as though even she is uncertain why she stopped by, it isn’t long before we find out what this unexpected — and, it might be argued, unpleasant — surprise is really all about and, over the course of the visit, who they are and how their lives came to intersect all those years ago.

Cindy Gold as Katharine Gerard and Jeff Parker as Cal Porter (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Despite, unbeknownst even to her, not knowing the full story, Katharine makes it known, in no uncertain terms, that she blames Cal for what happened to her son, André, who died of AIDS 20 years earlier. In fact, she seems to blame Cal for just about everything, from André’s being gay to the deterioration — or, indeed, disintegration — of her relationship with her son. Ridiculously and inexplicably enough, she seems to feel that André somehow became gay -- that it was something he was made into, or else a choice that he had made somewhere along the way -- and that it was Cal who had made him gay, or who had otherwise somehow influenced his decision. She also makes it known, in no uncertain terms, that she has no interest in being politically correct -- about this or any other issue for that matter -- no matter how others might feel. Even now, 20 years after her son’s death, she cannot accept who her son was or the life that Cal and her son lived. In spite of her daily mourning of the death of her own son, she makes clear her feelings that she feels as if Cal has not been punished and should have been.

Background (left to right): Jeff Parker as Cal Porter and Benjamin Parker as Will Ogden; Foreground: Ben Miller as Bud Ogden-Porter and Cindy Gold as Katharine Gerard (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Compounding all of this is that sitting there, in his apartment, seeing how his life turned out — seemingly happy with a husband and a kid of their own — it’s as if she is getting to glimpse a life that might have been her son’s, if he lived long enough. She seems to feel as if she has been slighted, and as if Cal was just able to pick up and move on with another man, without so much as a thought for André, completely ignoring the fact that it wasn’t until eight years after his death that he and Will had even met one another.

Background (left to right): Benjamin Sprunger as Will Ogden and Jeff Parker as Cal Porter; Foreground: Ben Miller as Bud Ogden-Porter and Cindy Gold as Katharine Gerard (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

It isn’t long, however, before we learn more about Cal and André and their relationship — including that turbulent time during which he became sick and died, just as many of their friends had, waiting and hoping for some kind of cure that didn’t come in time for so many of them — as well as André’s relationship with his mother and the secrets that they shared that ultimately seem to have lead to its end. 

And though it may, at first, seem counterintuitive that anything good could come of meeting with someone who was so resistant to accepting her own son for who he was — somebody who seems unwilling to do so even decades after his death — it is ultimately only in so doing that Katharine, Will and Cal can work through the issues that have been bubbling beneath the surface for all those years, finally coming to some kind of understanding… and (one can hope) on Katharine’s part, just perhaps, ultimately, acceptance.

 

 

Mothers & Sons is an excellently written, extremely well-acted play that is a undoubtedly a must-see. The play runs through February 28, 2016 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie. For more information regarding Mothers & Sons, to purchase tickets to this production, or for more information regarding Northlight Theatre and the remainder of the 2015 - 2016 season, please log onto the theatre’s website.

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