Terrence McNally may not be a particularly great playwright, but he is certainly a prolific one.
“Mothers and Sons” marks his 20th show on Broadway and his second to be produced this season alone, following the hopelessly messy history pageant “Away We Go” at Off-Broadway’s Pearl Theatre Company.
“Mothers and Sons,” which is inspired by a TV movie that McNally wrote 25 years ago, is one of his most compelling plays in years, even if it feels underdeveloped and offers little in terms of dramatic movement. Like “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” one of his most popular works, it explores changes in gay male lifestyle. In this case, it’s same-sex marriage following the AIDS crisis.
Tyne Daly plays Katharine, a widowed woman from Texas who pays a surprise visit to the Upper West Side apartment of Cal (Frederick Weller), the former lover of her son André, who died of AIDS two decades ago. After being alone for years, Cal met the comparatively younger Will (Bobby Steggert) and they started a family. Katharine is seemingly unaware that gay lifestyle has entered the cultural mainstream.
After trying their best to be pleasant, Cal and Will lose their patience with the bitter and resentful Katharine, who questions how and when her son became gay and caught AIDS. It is ultimately Bud (Grayson Taylor), Cal and Will’s adorable and inquisitive six-year-old son, who allows them all to reconcile.
Devised as a single scene without pause, “Mothers and Sons” makes for a well-constructed, often funny dialogue that is both provocative and heartfelt. But after 90 minutes, very little has changed and no climax has been reached.
As she did in McNally’s “Master Class,” Daly offers a masterful performance, delivering her lines with a dry acidity and firm poise while her reactions to both men reveal her conflicted emotions. Steggert, who was previously seen this season in “Big Fish,” once again excels at playing a good-natured, clean-cut and sensitive youth.
If you go:
‘Mothers and Sons’
open run @ the Golden Theatre.
252 W. 45th St. | 212-239-6200 | telecharge.com