By Brian Scott Lipton
Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally has not only been penning Broadway shows for almost 50 years, but as he proudly admits, he’s also been writing about gay men from the beginning of his storied career. That said, McNally would not have imagined five decades ago that he would be both happily and legally married (to producer Tom Kirdahy), nor that he could portray a happily married gay couple with their own child on stage as he does in his newest work “Mothers and Sons,” now in previews at the John Golden Theatre in advance of an official opening on March 24.
In the play, the daily existence of Cal (Frederick Weller), his younger husband Will (Bobby Steggert), and their 6-year-old son Bud (Grayson Taylor) is suddenly interrupted when Katharine (Tony Award winner Tyne Daly) – the bitter, politically incorrect mother of Cal’s late partner Andre – visits the couple’s Upper West Side apartment (designed by Tony winner and longtime Upper West Side resident John Lee Beatty).
The show was first given a two-week staging last summer at Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Playhouse, co-starring Daly and Steggert (both of whom had their roles written specifically for them), and directed by Tony nominee Sheryl Kaller, who is also helming the Broadway version. McNally and Daly both thought the piece would be well served by a female director, and Kaller admits that her own experiences as a mother have been important in her handling of the piece. Moreover, she has been a longtime fan of McNally’s, ever since she saw his landmark work “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” and felt she was watching a character just like herself onstage.
Daly — who starred in the recent Broadway revival of McNally’s play “Master Class” and who served as a witness for McNally and Kirdahy’s wedding – is thrilled to be playing such a complex and not always likeable character. “I enjoy defending her every night,” she says. For Steggert, who is openly gay, the opportunity to play a gay character of his generation is both exciting and empowering, while Weller is relishing the chance to work with McNally again (after appearing in his Off-Broadway hit “Some Men”) and appear alongside Daly, whom he praises for not just her acting ability but her kindness.
All the actors agree that this show not only portrays the different generations now living in America, straight and gay, but that it will appeal to theatergoers of varying ages.
*Photos/Video: Sandi Durell