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04/19/2007


Terrence McNally’s ‘Mothers and Sons’ Starring Tyne Daly Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

MS_Bobby_Steggert_and_Frederick_Weller_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway_(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

In his new play Mothers and Sons, which opened on Broadway March 24 at the Golden Theatre, Terrence McNally offers a present snapshot of lives affected by the height of the AIDS crisis—a mother who lost her son in his prime, and the lover who survived him to eventually start his own family. While voicing a crucial chapter in LGBT history that bears repeating, the play feels more like a set of talking points about affluent gay male experience than a well-crafted drama.

MS_Frederick_Weller_and_Tyne_Daly_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway_(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)A wry, acerbic Tyne Daly is the play’s emotional center (and indisputable highlight) as Katharine Gerard, the stubbornly intolerant mother to Andre, who died 20 years before the show begins. She arrives unannounced on the doorstep of her son’s lover Cal (Frederick Weller), who cared for him until his death. Cal has a husband now, Will (Bobby Steggert), 15 years his junior, and a 6-year-old son Bud (Grayson Taylor).

Ensconced in a massive, tasteful apartment (designed by John Lee Beatty) with a sweeping view of Central Park, by all accounts the young family couldn’t be happier. Cal is a successful money manger, Will is a stay-at-home writer-cum-full-time father, and Bud is so utterly self-possessed he could be a poster child for This Gay American Life.

MS_Tyne_Daly_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway._(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)And so, of course, history comes knocking. Why Katharine stops by and what she wants remain something of a mystery throughout, but mostly it’s to drum up ghosts and open old wounds. Hers, it seems, have never healed, and she quickly resents Cal for moving on and starting a family with Will.

Ms. Daly is top notch, her dry wit and razor sharp delivery bringing to mind another Katharine — Hepburn, just past her prime fighting years. Her ability to draw out our sympathy for a prickly, somewhat bigoted and often bitter woman is impressive, especially given her role as the play’s antagonist in an argument for progress.

In all fairness to Katharine, that argument is mostly one-sided, as she becomes a sounding board with her stockings firmly planted on the wrong side of history. The evening’s bullet points fly at her from two directions—from Cal, who saw many of his peers die from AIDS, and Will, who grew up with a Millennial’s expectations of a gay life not much different from those of his straight peers.

MS_Bobby_Steggert,_Frederick_Weller,_Grayson_Taylor,_and_Tyne_Daly_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway_(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)Where Katharine’s arsenal is full of biting, amusing one-liners, Cal and Will speak as though life were a sort of elite cocktail party where being pedantic is part of the dress code. While we’re surely on board with most everything they say, it’s hard to really get behind them (except maybe to slip away and find someone less self-serious to mingle with).

For those, like Katharine, with a ways to go in opening their minds, McNally provides worthwhile, critical instruction. Though the play’s rallying cry for tolerance, and for respect to those we lost in our culture war’s most gruesome era would be that much more moving and persuasive were its gay characters a bit more flesh and blood. 

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)


Terrence McNally On Love, Loss, "Mothers And Sons": Video

Playwright Terrence McNally recently spoke with Tim Murphy at POZ about his new AIDS memory play Mothers and Sons that debuted this month for a short run at The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania.  The play stars Tyne Daly who has previously starred in McNally's Master Class and served as a witness at McNally's 2010 wedding to partner Tom Kirdahy.  McNally also talked about the impact AIDS has had on the gay community along with his own experience with losing two lovers to AIDS:

Motherandsons2You’ve lived through several decades of both gay life and AIDS in New York City. What’s that been like?
Mainly I feel a sense of wonder and pride at the enormous changes in everybody. When I first came to New York from Texas in 1955 as a gay man, I was 17. Gay bars were in basements, unmarked firetraps. They were like the speakeasies of the 1920s—you felt you were breaking the law by going there. And now, in my lifetime, Tom and I are legally married, and in this new play, the couple even has a child. Gay life has changed, and AIDS is a huge part of that. Gay pride and AIDS are connected, the way the community came together because of AIDS. I don’t think there was much of a gay community before AIDS.

Has it been hard living through the deaths of two lovers?
It’s devastating. But clearly I wouldn’t have written this play if I didn’t want to show that life can go on. When Robert died, I didn’t expect to meet Gary, and when Gary died, I didn’t expect to meet Tom. So that makes me an optimist. What am I supposed to do? Live with devastation and anger and fear, or do I do something about it? [Pauses; laughs.] You know, it’s easier for me to write about these things than to talk about them. But I have friends who have not started a relationship since they lost a partner to AIDS. When I first met Tom, I was embarrassed. I wondered if Gary’s friends were asking, How could I have loved Gary so much if I could love someone else? But I would never say there are rules for life, that if you truly love someone you can never love again."

Read the full interview here.

Be sure to check out a video of Terrence and Tyne talking about the new play AFTER THE JUMP...

(photo via Mandee Kuenzle/Bucks County Playhouse)

Continue reading "Terrence McNally On Love, Loss, "Mothers And Sons": Video" »


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