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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 27, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 04
A mother's quest:

ArtsWest presents luminous staging of Mothers and Sons
Arts & Entertainment
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A mother's quest:

ArtsWest presents luminous staging of Mothers and Sons

by Paul Torres - SGN A&E Writer

MOTHERS AND SONS
ARTSWEST
Through February 11


The AIDS crisis wreaked havoc on our community. In the early '90s, young men were stricken down in the prime of their lives. A lot has been said about the loss of talent and possibility; the actors, the doctors, the mechanics, and the would-be fathers among others who fell victim to AIDS. Renown playwright Terrence McNally's (Love! Valor! Compassion!) Mothers and Sons allows us into the lives of the bereaved in the wake of that horrible deadly disease. After the fun and rambunctious December outing of ArtsWest's Peter and The Starcatcher, this production is delicate and modest. This eloquent presentation works on you in a deeper way.

On a dark and gloomy evening in a well-decorated apartment in the elite Upper West Side of New York City, middle-aged money manager Cal Porter (Evan Whitfield previously seen at ArtsWest in Chinglish) greets the wary mother of his dead former lover, Andre. Katharine Gerard (Suzy Hunt in her ArtsWest debut) stares out the big window down to the bustling city as Cal scurries around the apartment. Why is she here? It has been over 20 years since Andre died. As the evening moves on, we witness a taut and stunning conversation about pain, remorse, and reconciliation.

Suzy Hunt gives a powerful performance as Katharine, a long-suffering recent widow from Dallas who was originally raised in a small town in New York state. Now, she is seeking a long-paused consolation - a quest for solace - over the death of her beloved and talented son - he was a gifted actor. Hunt is a stunning stand-out in this role.

Evan Whitfield's passion for his role is evident in the slow unraveling of Cal's own pain that is just simmering underneath his skin. Whitfield is magnificent as a man moving on with his bright new life despite a past that would otherwise defeat others.

Rounding out the performances are Jason Sanford as Cal's young husband, Will Ogden, and Isaac Spence as Bud Ogden-Porter, their 8-year-old son. Sanford is perfectly exhilarating in his role as a busy writer and father trying to balance empathy and dignity. Spence's performance is perceptive and sweet.

Makaela Pollock's directing is subtly efficient. The characters move in and out of scenes as naturally as possible considering the heavy themes of death and an assumed betrayal. This is not an easy feat and luckily it doesn't succumb to tricks like ghosts and flashbacks to retain an audience's attention. The conversational style has a venerable literary history that can sometimes be challenging to execute. However, Pollack's professional talent keeps the story alive and enrapturing.

Mothers and Sons observes how the stories about what happened to Gay men at the end of the 20th century - along with their struggle and agony - will become but 'a chapter in a history book, then a paragraph, then a footnote.' It's a haunting critique of the cruelties of time and memory. Fortunately, this production from the legendary talents of openly-Gay playwright Terrence McNally (author of Love! Valor! Compassion!) shines on to illuminate those dark times with a fresh take about the detritus from those stormy and destructive days. It reveals how reflection and reconciliation are a salve that can begin to heal those raw wounds. This staging of Mothers and Sons is bittersweet and engages us into its conversation of hope and survival.

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A mother's quest:

ArtsWest presents luminous staging of Mothers and Sons

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