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NY1 Theater Review: 'Mothers and Sons'

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Four-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally returns to the Broadway stage with his latest play, a new work entitled "Mothers and Sons." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

Terrence McNally is a savvy, thoughtful writer, but his latest play, "Mothers and Sons," is not so much a theatrical work as a social study. And while it's an important one, if not for the illuminating performances, I'd have to say it's not yet ready for the Broadway stage.

Katharine, the mother of a gay man who died from AIDS 20 years earlier, suddenly arrives at the Upper West Side home of Cal, her son's former partner, who is now married to the much younger Will. The scene is fraught with tension, as the passive-aggressive mother refuses to accept the truth about her son, that he was even gay at all.

Embittered and in denial, she never really explains why she's come. And Cal, who's been able to move on with his husband and young son, politely but uncomfortably engages her in conversation for the play's 100-minute duration. It's dramatically intriguing but, as written, the dynamic is awkward and contrived.

"Mothers and Sons" admirably casts a wide net of social issues: the diminishing impact of AIDS, society's evolving acceptance of gay lifestyles, and the bigotry that continues to plague so many families in America.

But in order to get all that in there, McNally bends and twists his characters to implausible lengths. Katharine's insulting intolerance barely gets a rise out of Cal. And it doesn't make much sense that she's presented as both ignorant and intellectually astute.

Sheryl Kaller's direction fails to clarify the inconsistencies. But the performances, particularly Tyne Daly's impeccably calibrated Katharine, are huge assets. Frederick Weller's sedately mannered Cal and Bobby Steggert's more volatile Will fill in a lot of the play's unfortunate blanks.

McNally's characters have much to teach us, but credibility and structural problems undermine the play's timely and vital message.

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