Brilliantly Staged: Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally

Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally produced by StageWest Theatre Co.

A Theatre Review by an Avid Theatregoer in Des Moines IA

How do we ever resolve our guilt about past actions that may not have been appropriate? Do we find a potentially guilty party so we can identify the source of our problems or loss? Do we ever reconcile to reality of the past? Can we ever find a future worth living? Do we ever let down the psychological walls that protect our psyche?

Put these questions in the context of a mother who has refused to recognize her only child’s homosexuality, nor his death 15 years ago from AIDs, and you have the premise of Terrance McNally’s   dramatic play Mothers and Sons.

Brilliantly staged by StageWest, presented in the round and with the perfectly aloof attitude and in denial mother Kathryn (Nancy Zubrod) at her steely strongest, this play will hold your attention, tear at your emotions and leave you wondering how Kathryn will face the future. When Kathryn steps forth, she is absolutely dressed to perfection, and properly accessorized. She will find and condemn the guilty party.

The protagonist is a real surprise…Bud, (Jacob Forney) the 8 year old son of a homosexual couple of men, who’s biologically related to the youngest man in the marriage. He asks Kathryn the tough questions…Who are you? What is human nature? Can you be a grandmother (read normal, fragile, totally open human being, as is Bud, who is absolutely full of innocence.)?

Supported by solid performance by Cal (Dan Haymes), the lover of her deceased son, and Will (Hank Fisher) , Cal’s younger husband, the productions moved rapidly and with tension/conflict that left few issues unspoken. Juxtaposed between the 1970s and today, the audience experiences what has changed, what has not changed, and the critical element in any human relationship…love and care!

Bud returns at plays end and offers Kathryn his own comfort food (milk and cookie). Communion? Total compassion from the most innocent.

Does Kathryn get rid of her demons, accept the invitation of Bud and reconcile with Cal?

In the Broadway production, Kathryn played by Tyne Daley, takes the curtain leaving you not sure of what she will do. In this production, there was at least a hint of reconciliation in Kathryn’s body and facial language.

Absolutely timely and exceptionally well done production by Todd Buchacker and Michael Tallman with Tim Wisgerhof’s set designs.