Highly Recommended ***** How does one deal with the death of a child, many years later? In the story that is told by Terrance McNally in “Mothers & Sons”, now onstage at Northlight Theatre, we have such a case. Katherine ( played to perfection by Chicago favorite Cindy Gold) has stopped to pay a visit and return something to Cal Porter (gloriously played by Jeff Parker, who truly shows his depth in this role), her late son’s “partner”. It is twenty years later, and while Cal has gone on with his life, Katherine is still searching for answers.
Cal is now a married man and these two men have a young son. Katherine feels that the “husband” Will Ogden (deftly handled by Benjamin Sprunger) is in fact leading the life that her son would have or could have had, if things had been different. The son, a wonderful performance by young Ben Miller doesn’t understand what is happening, but feels that this strange lady visiting his two dads would make a wonderful grandmother. What type of pain can this mother feel for her own style of parenting? This mother was an only child, married to an only child (who has recently passed away, leaving her alone), having an only child, who as it turns out was not what she had expected or anticipated. Katherine could not deal with her son, an actor, being “gay” in a time when they were not given the rights that today brings to this populace. Her son Andre, died of AIDS and at the memorial service for him, at no time, did she ever acknowledge his “partner, Cal, and yet, here some twenty years later, she has dropped in to share her torment ,and in her heart blame him for the agony that she lives with.
If we were to go back in time, with our playwright, Terrance M McNally, we might recall meeting these characters in “Andre’s Mother”, a play about AIDS written in 1988. This story is about the epidemic and the fear that the “Gay” community experienced. The play was not about the disease itself or even the victim, but in fact, those left behind and what happens to their existences after the death of their loved one. This play continues this thought process, as we see what has happened to Andre’s mother since his death and what Cal has been able to do. Sure, he still feels what he felt for Andre, but life goes on and he has now decided that he must live his life in honor of the love he once felt (and within still feels ) for Andre. What we learn from his discussions with Andre’s mother is that she has not gone on with her life, still living in the past and still holding others responsible for her actions.
Smoothly directed by Steve Scott on a wonderful set by Jack Magaw ( a beautiful apartment on Central Park West, ready to move into), this is 90 minutes of both comedy and drama, and I suggest that you bring at least three tissues for the events that take place between this “family” of sorts. There are some wonderful comedic moments as well with what one might call an ending where we feel that perhaps the changing landscape in our world has caught up with the people who have chosen lives that were not as their parents had planned and hoped for.
This play digs deeply into the generations and the changes that we have seen in the last 15 years. Where the word “Gay” was not as acceptable as it is today and the fact that a “Gay” couple can get married and feel okay with using the word “Gay”. There is a line about the use of the word “partner” and how Cal feels that might just mean that the two men were part of the same law firm. Having some relatives who are in this position, and knowing that they are now free to be who they are without fear of losing their jobs or their status, opened my eyes to what was happening years ago. This play and the contents of it, show that it is hard for the parents to let go and to open their eyes to the fact that no one is to blame for their child being other than expected. These are the fact of life and hats off to Northlight for bringing this excellent cast and this wonderful, warm and touching story to their stage. I am hopeful that we will see some Jeff Awards for this one.
“Mothers & Sons” will continue at The Northlight Theater located in the North Shore Center for Performing Arts located at 9501 Skokie Blvd., in Skokie (just south of Old Orchard Center) through February 27th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 1 and 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2:30 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2:30 and 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $25- $79 and are available at the box office, by calling 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org where you can also learn about the special events and post discussions during this run.
There are special events connected to this production. contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 847-679-9501 ext 3555 to participate in Backstage with BJ
Plenty of FREE Parking at Northlight
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Mothers & Sons”. This is one I would place on my MUST SEE list!