Broadway Theater Review: MOTHERS AND SONS (Golden Theatre)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on March 24, 2014

in Theater-New York


One of the questions at the center of Terrence McNally’s insightful and moving drama Mothers and Sons is, Why is it so difficult for a mother to love her son for who he is, and vice versa? McNally initially frames the problem in terms of a homophobic mother’s inability to accept her son’s homosexuality, even after he’s been dead for many years; were the play simply about this it would have been more than satisfying. But McNally’s work is outstanding. It transcends the issue of gay-acceptance and puts its question more broadly: Can anyone love us for us?

Frederick Weller and Tyne Daly in a scene from Terrence McNally's MOTHERS AND SONS on Broadway.

Deftly directed by Sheryl Kaller, who elicits sharp and sympathetic performances from the excellent cast, the show begins with Katharine (Tyne Daly) and Cal (Frederick Weller) looking out the window from a luxurious but homey Central Park West apartment (beautifully realized by John Lee Beatty). Katharine is a comfortable Texas widow in her 60’s – her demeanor, mink coat, and salt-and-pepper Conway Twitty hair say as much. Cal, gentle and kind, in his late 40’s, seems anxious around her, and she’s not exactly comfortable next to him either: Cal was her son Andre’s boyfriend, until Andre died of AIDS 19 years ago. In fact what the couple had was much more: Andre was the love of Cal’s life. Katharine never accepted their union, and even though Cal was alone for eight years after her son’s death, she still finds the authenticity of his feelings for Andre suspect.

Bobby Steggert and Frederick Weller in a scene from Terrence McNally's MOTHERS AND SONS on Broadway.

Now Cal has a husband named Will (Bobby Steggert), a struggling writer fifteen years his junior, and Bud (Grayson Taylor), their six-year-old son. Their home is filled with love, hope and joy, until Katharine’s unexpected appearance throws a shadow over their happiness. Her presence not only brings back memories of how AIDS ravaged the gay community in the early 90s and the less-than-sympathetic attitudes of conservatives like her to the epidemic, but it also brings back memories of Andre. This makes Will jealous and agitated; what do you do when you see that your husband loved someone else more than he could ever love you?

Bobby Steggert, Frederick Weller, Grayson Taylor, and Tyne Daly in a scene from Terrence McNally's MOTHERS AND SONS on Broadway.

The only one unreservedly happy about Katharine being there is Bud. He immediately takes a strong liking to her and, not being burdened by adult logic, decides that he wants her to be his grandmother. Is such a thing possible in the real, grown-up world – people loving and caring for each other simply because they do, because they want to and need to? Andre might have felt rejected by his mother for not loving the whole of him, but Katharine too felt alienated and alone: Andre loved her because she was his mother, but did he really love her? Did anyone really love her?

Tyne Daly in a scene from Terrence McNally's MOTHERS AND SONS on by Joan Marcus

Mothers and Sons
Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street
scheduled to end on June 22, 2014
for tickets, call 212-239-6200
or visit

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