From the moment Tyne Daly appears on stage commanding the audience to focus on the troubled soul of Katharine Gerard, she shows her extensive theatre and television experience in Terrence McNally’s new play, MOTHERS AND SONS at Bucks County Playhouse.
Often best remembered as Detective Mary Beth Lacey in the television series Cagney & Lacey, as Maxine Gray in “Judging Amy”, and as Alice Henderson in “Christy, ” Daly has won six Emmys for her television work. She also won the 1990 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in GYPSY. Last October, she appeared at BCP in LOVE LETTERS, with James Earl Jones.
For ninety intense minutes, Daly embodies the character of the unforgiving mother of André Gerard who left Texas when he was only seventeen years old for NYC when he “became gay,” she says.
At the drama’s opening, Katharine Gerard is engaged in uncomfortable small talk with Cal Porter, the man who was her son’s partner six years prior to André’s death. Now twenty-five years later, she has made a surprise visit to his New York City apartment.
“He wasn’t gay when he left Texas!” she blurts accusingly at Porter whose mouth drops open in astonishment at her ignorance as the audience chuckled knowingly.
One never doubts the inner struggle this mother is experiencing as she grasps at any bit of information to help her understand those things which she has for years denied about her son and their relationship.
Manoel Felciano portrays Porter with extraordinary humor, strength, understanding, patience, compassion, introspection, and believability, demonstrating the skills which earned him a SWEENEY TODD Tony nomination.
Soon, their visit becomes more complicated and even more intriguing when Porter’s husband, Will Ogden, arrives home with their six year old son, Bud Ogden, Will’s biological son by a surrogate.
Two more actors; two more excellent performances! First is Bobby Steggert as Ogden conveying discomfort that this woman, mother of his husband’s former lover is in their apartment dredging up old memories he would rather forget. Clearly Ogden wishes she would leave, and when Gerard visits the powder room, he states his feelings emphatically to Porter.
Nevertheless, their young son finds this woman to be very interesting and at one point innocently invites her to be his grandmother, poignantly emphasizing for Gerard that with her only child dead, she never will have grandchildren.
Grayson Taylor of NYC as Bud has been acting since he was three years old. He is totally into the character of Bud Ogden charming not only his dads and the guest but the audience, as well.
The set for this play a comfortable Manhattan apartment, designed by Wilson Chin, is homey and believable – the best traditional one I have seen in a very long time.
Lighting by Travis McHale is subtle and appropriate. As the play progresses and the sky darkens, the two men turn on lights as needed, brightening the stage if not their situation.
The results of Sheryl Kaller’s directing handiwork are subtle and praiseworthy. Her hand is evident in every move and every choice the actors make. For instance, Gerard never leaves her handbag. She takes it with her from the chair, to the sofa, to the bathroom. It is her constant companion, always within easy reach, and it serves as the depository for photos of her son Porter gives her.
Porter demonstrates his fastidious personality moving around, picking up books and tidying up as they talk. At one point, he gathers a rumpled throw from the back of the sofa, deliberately folding it four times before placing it back onto the sofa.
The pace ebbs and flows. Timing is precise, but appears to be done with the comfort of those repetitious things one does all the time now interrupted by an unexpected visitor stirring up memories and raising questions.
On opening night, veteran producer Jed Bernstein, who predicted last year when the theatre re-opened, that Bucks County Playhouse would once again be the try-out theatre for new plays, proudly introduced playwright Terrence McNally who was in the audience to see the world premiere of his new play, MOTHERS AND SONS, and to observe audience reaction.
Bernstein also introduced playwright Christopher Durang who just last week won the Best Play Tony award for VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE.
McNally is a recipient of the Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and has won four Tony Awards for his work. Chances are that McNally will make revisions to this new play as he sees and hears audience response. Inspiration for this play came from an old screenplay he had written, ANDRE’S MOTHER, for which he won an Emmy as a television play in 1990.
Some people might think there should be a better (happier?) resolution to the story; however, not all stories have nice, tidy endings. McNally likely intended the relationships to be unsettled.
Performance times and ticket prices vary. Check the BCP website or call the box office.
MOTHERS AND SONS
by Terrence McNully
Directed by Sheryl Kaller
June 13 – 23, 2013
Bucks County Playhouse
70 Main St.
New Hope, PA 18938