One of the noblest functions of theatre is to show a viewer the power of a story not their own. I am not homosexual, and perhaps the most foreign aspect of "Mothers and Sons" was seeing what a miserable mother looks like. My mother is frequently my guest at shows, and this time I could feel her seething frustration with Katherine, the "mother" of the title. A few times I wanted to move away a bit, it was that strong. It wasn't "judgment," just genuine feeling.
And yet, it must be noted that McNally works very hard to avoid turning Katherine into a monster.
The play takes place decades after McNally's "Andre's Mother", a play about Katherine's son Andre who has died of A.I.D.S. and his boyfriend Cal's desire to share in mutual grief. But, Katherine has never accepted Andre's homosexuality, and blames Cal for his death.
In this play, Cal has legally married, and they have son together. McNally says in the playbill that his goal was to filter decades worth of real-world progress through the lens of the play, and I was surprised how well he succeeded.
Cal is played by Michael Mendelson, an actor who I have praised many times for his extreme versatility, and his work here is no exception.
"Mothers and Sons is among the most searingly personal plays I've ever seen. It is at once joyful, angry, and sad. It is a play that will give you insight no matter the angle from which you view it, and that is rare.