Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” is a terrific wake-up call to changing societal attitudes.
Now playing at Northlight Theatre in Skokie through Feb. 27, 2016, it reminds us that decades ago many parents wouldn’t admit or accept that a child of theirs might be gay and therefore would have little contact with that son or daughter and that person’s friends.
Fast forward 20 years when “Mothers and Sons” appeared on Broadway in 2014 and you will have had some states sanction civil unions of gay couples and cities that allowed same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriages came in 2015 after the play appeared.
In “Mothers and Sons” McNally places Katherine Gerard (Cindy Gold) in the nice New York City apartment of Cal Porter (Jeff Parker), her late son’s former partner 20 years after her son’s death by AIDS. The apartment overlooks Central Park.
There are some references to her upcoming trip to Rome but she doesn’t really seem to know why she has came to New York from Dallas and looked him up with help from his sister, Penny.
However, it is a way for McNally, born in 1938 and married to Thomas Kirdahy in 2010, to look at changing attitudes about gays and same-sex unions with wit and intelligence.
At the apartment, Katherine learns that Porter has married Will Ogden (Benjamin Sprunger) and the two of them have a son, Bud (Ben Miller). The marriage of Porter who may be close to 50, to Ogden who is younger and didn’t go through the AIDS decade, is McNally’s chance to discuss the changed attitudes.
Porter is sympathetic to Katherine’s difficulty in accepting gay partnerships. Ogden is not. He’s unhappy with Katherine’s presence and sees it as a reminder that Porter once loved someone else. Their son, Bud, is a delightful go-between.
Well directed by Steve Scott, the play seems to be a vehicle for McNally to encourage family and extended family re-connections.
“Mothers and Sons” by Terrence McNally is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL now through Feb. 27, 2016. For tickets and more information visit Northlight or call 847-673-6300.