Review: Shakespeare & Company presents Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons

Photo Credit: Bill Mootos and Annette Miller. Photo by Eloy Garcia.

Photo Credit: Bill Mootos and Annette Miller. Photo by Eloy Garcia.

Angelica Potter

  • New England Theatre Critic

Having premiered on Broadway in 2014, Terrence McNally’s incredible drama Mothers and Sons is now playing on the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre stage at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. It is a timely play about the complexity of the relationship between a mother and her son. McNally skillfully crafts characters that seem all too familiar and yet we in the audience don’t see how events will unfold as we become engrossed in each scene. We laugh at the uncomfortable jokes they make in their effort to ease the tension that is building. We gasp at the harshness and bluntness of the things they say. We tear up when they break down in unbearable pain. We see our family members, our friends and our coworkers in the various facets of these characters. In this play about change, personal growth, acceptance of others and, without a doubt, love, we see a glimmer of hope and compassion come from the youngest character; who in his innocence and kindness, shows us that good can come from bad and love can be shown in the smallest of ways. 

Similar to Shakespeare and Company’s production of Morning After Grace earlier this summer, Mothers and Sons brings people together by using a character who is spoken about and very important to the other characters within the play, but who never actually appears. It was clear early on that this character, Andre, had a vast impact on the other characters within the story. Katharine, his mother whom he did not have the best relationship with, Cal, his love who cared for him until his passing, Will, Cal's husband, whom Andre never met, but who sometimes feels like he lives in Andre’s shadow, and Bud, the child born long after Andre’s death who knows nothing except how to show kindness and love to another person; even one he just met. It is in Bud that Katharine finds the love she has been seeking. A love she didn’t feel from any other person in her life, including Andre. 

Directed by James Warwick the cast of four included Annette Miller as Katharine Gerard, Bill Mootos as Cal Porter, David Gow as Will Ogden, and Evan Miller as Bud Ogden-Porter. Miller was riveting as Katharine. At times the audience was shocked at the things Katharine said, audibly gasping. At other times we could feel the pain and anguish Miller was displaying as Katharine mourned her son and lamented their relationship. Katharine was riddled with guilt and after years of stifling her feelings and being angry with her son and how he died, she finally starts to accept the role she played in his life. Many scenes throughout the play paired Miller and Mootos who consistently brought the audience on an emotional rollercoaster as their characters verbally sparred, sympathized and cried with one another all the while standing firm in their own beliefs. As Cal, Mootos often spoke with compassion and tenderness, but soon enough was enough. He was clearly torn up by Katharine’s unplanned and unannounced visit and reliving the past was not how he planned on spending his afternoon. Mootos portrayal was controlled and measured and balanced nicely against Gow’s younger, relaxed and fun loving portrayal of Will. As Will, Gow, was a compassionate father who put his son and his sons’ best interest above everything else. His father-son relationship with Evan Miller, who played Bud at this performance, was believably sweet. 

This real-to-life play with its honest confrontations, three adults who want to be good parents and a child who brings life, laughter and love to those most in need gave the audience much to consider as they left the theater and walked out to their cars. Is it possible, after losing someone so important, that the void one feels could ever be filled by another human being? If Andre had not died and left a devastated Katharine and Cal behind, Cal would not have met Will. They would not have gotten married and had their son Bud: the redeeming, wholesome, pure love that each of the adults in this play so desperately needed. 

Gut-wrenchingly authentic performances given by the adult cast, who were so invested in these characters and telling this story makes this play one that shouldn’t be missed. The audience was all in, attentive to the actors every moment and they were clearly stirred by their performances. Sniffling, wiping tears, reaching for tissues all while rising to their feet applauding. All signs that this play and these actors truly moved the audience, as I am sure they will continue to do over the course of this run. ©

This production runs about 95 minutes with no intermission. Mothers and Sons plays through September 9th in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre on the Shakespeare & Company campus located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tickets and more information about this play as well as Shakespeare & Company’s full season can be found at www.shakespeare.org or by calling the box office at 413-637-3353. 

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/