Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 23, 2018

REVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, Mothers and Sons

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through September 9, 2018
by Shera Cohen

It’s cliché that mothers and daughters often collide; not so much mothers and sons. Tony Award-winning and  prolific playwright Terrence McNally has penned a story of a relationship (or, better yet, non-relationship) between a woman and her son which comes to life 20-years after the young man’s death.

“Mothers and Sons” explores the have and have-nots; the humans who populate the world who have love to give and to accept, and those who can only define the word selfishly.  

To some degree, the play is a history lesson presented by Katharine (mother) and Cal (the former partner of her gay son). Younger audience members who knew little about the AIDS epidemic of two decades ago will undoubtedly become enlightened about this 20th century scourge. For the rest of us, the story resonates as a reminder of the not so distant past.

At first, Director James Warwick introduces the lead characters as static and one-dementional with wide physical space between them for tension to fill and encompass both. Slowly, McNally’s dialog in the hands of Warwick, form characters who are able to communicate, although rarely on an even plane. 

Photo by Eloy Garcia
Over the years, Shakespeare & Co. resident actress Annette Miller has specialized in portraying historic figures; i.e. Maria Callas, Martha Mitchell, and Golda Meir. Oftentimes, it has felt as if Miller’s own personality superseded each of these famous women. Miller is certainly a formidable actor, and credit goes to her portrayal of Katharine as sad, brittle, and stuck in a world of her own making. It is especially enlightening to see her interpret an everyday woman, warts and all.

Bill Mootos, as Cal, speaks of the values that make humans, well…human. In a quiet manner and never didactic, Mootos delicately explores the subjects of caring, love, commitment, and strength. Miller and Mootos craft roles whose backbones are weak with fear; their commonality. While hesitant, Cal risks enough to move on in life. While Katharine tries, ever so slowly, the audience sees hope for this woman.

In smaller but important roles are David Gow as Cal’s husband, Will. Gow’s outright condescending attitude toward Katharine is, at first, prickly and pompous. Fortunately, the dialog and Gow’s acting skills shape a real person who the audience can choose to like or not. Evan Miller, as Cal and Will’s son Bud, is charming and cute (but not too cute) spouting some words of wisdom beyond his years.

Note: On alternating evenings, Bud’s role is played by Hayden Hoffman.