Mothers & Sons
by Terrence McNally
Directed by Anthony Valbiro
Through Nov. 21
19 Whippoorwill East, Armonk
The Armonk Players
In his powerful one-act play, Mothers & Sons, celebrated playwright Terrence McNally gives full voice to a specific strain of intolerance. He reminds us that if hate comes easier to some more than others, it may be because of an inner sadness — call it a deficiency of happiness — that leaves the hater feeling forever alone, even when surrounded by family. That unshakable sense of aloneness, without the salve of distraction, invites resentment and even ridicule of others.
And so it is with widowed Katharine Gerard (Misti Tindiglia), a Westchester native from Port Chester (but tells folks she is from Rye), who long ago relocated — or, more precisely, dislocated — to Dallas, whose people and culture she virtually grades with a big D.
As the play opens, Katharine’s just arrived in the Big Apple to reluctantly visit her late son Andre’s lover, Cal (Adam Welsh), who now is married to Will (Brad Metz). The same-sex couple have a 6-year-old son, Bud (Nathan Ilany).
A Wall Between Them
Cal and Katharine — who’ve met only once before, at Andre’s funeral 20 years prior — are facing the audience when the lights go up. Each may as well be standing on either side of a brick wall running down the middle of the room, for all they have in common.
Cal is a money manager whose success landed him in a posh Central Park West co-op with panoramic views of the park and beyond. Given his apparent wealth, there’s no small irony in his down-to-earth sincerity placed alongside the haughty airs of Mrs. Gerard.
Without any evidence to support her suspicions, the imperious woman implicitly blames Cal for her son’s death by AIDS. She also resents Cal’s upwardly mobile fortunes since her son’s demise. In her jaded eyes, she has lost her son and suffered while Cal has taken her son and prospered.
Katharine hails not only from a different generation, but from a different universe. She admits to having difficulty “transitions,” which means any kind of change whatsoever.
‘Choice’ Words from a Mother in Mourning
To Katharine, who is emblematic of many others, being non-heterosexual is a “choice,” like choosing a place to go on vacation.
She goes so far as to say her son was not gay when he left Dallas for New York. She objects to the very word “gay” being co-opted from her comfortable context of when it meant “something good.”
Adam Welsh invests Cal with a beautifully affecting and tender earnestness as he tries valiantly and respectfully to joust with the steely Mrs. Gerard.
Veteran and versatile actress Misti Tindiglia is perfectly cast as a woman who doesn’t let anybody in and lashes out at whatever she disapproves of. As the play progresses, the skilled actress lets us see the hurt deep inside that accounts for her character’s lifetime of corrupted emotions and judgmental impulses.
Doting Father, Politically Promiscuous
As Will, who is 15 years younger than husband Cal, Brad Metz plays a doting father to Bud, and is far less concerned with being politically correct than the more self-conscious and proper Will.
Kudos too to Nathan Ilany, whose Bud is as bouncy, curious and unvarnished as you’d expect a six-year-old boy to be. He is a little like a Greek chorus, commenting on the adult activity.
The play is lovingly directed by Anthony Valbiro, a man of many roles who is a master of the theater arts. His personal note in the program is both achingly poignant and inspirational. It talks of his own life experience and relationship with his mother, which mirrors what we see on stage.
Despite the differences between him and his mother, “I never gave up,” writes Mr. Valbiro. “Gay men connect to their mothers like no other… I hope this piece speaks to you in a way that will make you forgive… love… that’s what it’s all about. Hold tight to your mothers… reach out to your sons.”
In life, as in the play, redemption is within reach, if you stretch enough.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency. He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. He writes a weekly column for several periodicals and hosts public access TV series Hudson Valley WXYZ with Bruce The Blog. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (914) 275-6887.