Tuesday, September 23, 2014

GableStage: Mothers and Sons (5 reviews)

mothers_adGableStage opened its production of Terence McNally’s Mothers and Sons on September 20, 2014.
At turns funny and powerful, the play portrays a woman who pays an unexpected visit to the New York apartment of her late son's partner, who is now married to another man and has a young son. Values clash as they struggle to reconcile their vastly different worlds. A timely and provocative new work that explores our evolving understanding of family in today's world.
Joseph Adler directed a cast that featured Michael McKeever, Jeremiah Musgrove, Angie Radosh, and Gabe Sklar.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
What theater does better than any other art form is depict close-up the devastating pain when deep emotional wounds inflicted decades earlier are ripped open again… That’s what GableStage’s production of Terrence McNally’s script Mothers And Sons does even better than last spring’s world premiere on Broadway…
Everyone here is at the top of their game from Adler’s pitch perfect guidance to the paste-it-in-your-scrapbook performances of Angie Radosh, Michael McKeever and Jeremiah Musgrove.
Radosh’s absolutely outstanding performance is not better or worse than Daly’s but different…  Radosh alchemically makes us sympathize with Katharine’s loneliness and lack of connection even as we know she has inflicted much of it herself. We can see Katharine’s pain just below the carefully-applied makeup and tightly-controlled smile because the sorrow seeps out of Radosh’s eyes and echoes in her tight dry voice. That makes her angst credible as bits of her psychological backstory slip out in anguished revelations. The suffering that Daly successfully refused to expose is what Radosh so convincingly lets slip out of Katharine under the volcanic pressure of her interactions with Cal.
McKeever spends the first half exuding his trademark geniality as Cal’s natural politeness and compassion under pressure prevail over Cal’s banked anger and resentment at the woman he believes had emotionally blighted the man he loved. McKeever has shown this side of his acting skill set many times in light comedies. But as we saw last season in his concentration camp denizen in The Timekeepers, McKeever is an equally capable virtuoso at strategically pulling emotions out of his spleen.
Musgrove skillfully creates a 21st century denizen with an up-to-the-minute attitude. Musgrove’s Will sees no more reason to put up with homophobia any more than a black man would put with overt racism.
Young master Sklar is appropriately winsome in his non-judgmental directness and inquisitiveness that reflects a mental health we can only wish we could preserve as we get older.
Of course, these performances result in large part due to the emotional choreography of Adler at his best. He and his company have created a moving and illuminating evening writ large in letters of fiery pain and tear-stained regret.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The Tony Award-nominated Mothers and Sons, which was on Broadway just last spring, is now getting a fresh production at GableStage. Director Joseph Adler has sculpted a show that is at first dominated by guarded politeness, occasional jolts of comedy or absurdity, and a precisely controlled undercurrent of tension. But by the end of a 90-minute drama that grows in intensity, most in the audience are as deeply moved as McNally’s characters.
Radosh makes the tiny glimpses of vulnerability, the revealing moments when it’s clear how Katharine contributed to making her late life so empty, hit home.
McKeever’s innate warmth and likeability are a good fit for Cal. But working with Adler, he gets to a place of righteous fury that makes Cal someone who can pierce Katharine’s armor.
The appealing Musgrove makes the generational differences between Will and the 15-years-older Cal — and the differences in parenting styles — seem organic. And though Bud’s inquisitiveness includes plenty of awkward questions, Sklar is unfailingly sweet and adorable.
Mothers and Sons isn’t McNally’s best-ever play, but it’s another enlightening encapsulation of a moment in history. And at GableStage, it’s memorable theater.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
This is a one act history of the acceptance of gay life since the eighties. And perhaps this is why the whole thing seems familiar. The stories and the attitudes are not new; they can't be. But the strong performances of the actors do much to lessen the obviousness of a mother's grief, her belief that her son was not to blame for his own death, her bitterness at the unfairness of her unloved husband deserting her by dying, and the appalling knowledge of her own loneliness.
Radosh with her hooded stare is the complete pseudo grande dame. McKeever disappears completely into the deeply passionate Cal and relative new comer Musgrove is the well grounded, would be perfect husband and father.
Director Joseph Adler, despite the murmurings of "poor me" throughout the script, has delivered an intense piece, every sin exposed, every wish granted in a production that brought the opening night crowd to its feet.
John Thomason wrote for The Miami New Times:
Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons, which opened last weekend at GableStage, is a profound inquiry into the human condition, delivered in a sweepingly emotional experience that fully justifies the art form. It's been far too long since I left an auditorium as teary, speechless, and physically affected. This production is why theater exists.
…Mothers and Sons is about the fact that times have changed even if people haven't. While McNally most obviously identifies with Cal and Will, he never demonizes Katharine for her regressive views, instead chipping away at the character until all of her emotional wounds are exposed.
Director Joseph Adler understands all of this, building McNally's lengthy, unbroken scene with the patience of an architect overseeing a building's construction one brick at a time. The performances of Radosh and McKeever are his towering accomplishment. McKeever dominates the first several pages of the script, but don't be surprised if your eyes spend more time on Radosh, overdressed-to-impress in a fur coat and sparkling brooch, her lips pursed, her eyes weary and judging. She at first seems to lack a reason to scream and cry at her overly polite host. It's a dynamic and beautifully restrained introduction, conveying a full worldview with a minimum of words.

Radosh and McKeever are at their finest when spilling forth their characters' guts and exposing their souls. They are consistently in the moment, never acting and always reacting. If we expect such immersion from Radosh, it's still something of a pleasant surprise (though it shouldn't be) that funny­man ­McKeever proves so capable of digging so deeply into a drama so powerful. Both actors' climactic breakthroughs are moving beyond words.
It's no accident that McNally pluralized the title of his play. It's not just about one mother and one son; it's about all of us.
J.W. Arnold wrote for South Florida Gay News:
Under Joseph Adler’s inspired direction, McNally’s emotional dialogue is perfectly paced and carefully avoids melodrama. Both Radosh and McKeever, Carbonell Award-winning actors, give powerful, yet nuanced performances that will certainly earn them more critical accolades and continue to draw tears from audiences.
Musgrove’s strong performance highlights the changing attitudes of a younger generation that is equally intolerant of intolerance and eager to engage “bigots.”
Adler and GableStage always offer thought provoking, high quality productions and “Mothers and Sons” is one of those “must see” shows of the fall theater season.
GableStage presents its production of Terence McNally’s Mothers and Sons through October 19, 2014.

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