Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham

Mothers and Sons
Raleigh Little Theatre
Review by Garrett Southerland

Also see Garrett's review of Detroit '67

Christopher Maxwell, Andrew Farmer, Brian Westbrook, and Rebecca Johnston
Photo by Curtis Brown Photography
Next year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage. Since then the definition of marriage has continued to evolve and now includes same sex couples. It might be easy to forget how recently this right has come for the gay community; two decades ago marriage equality was barely talked about. Instead, the focus was on the quest for survival against a virus. Somewhere in between, Katherine Gerard lost her son, Andre, to AIDS. This is the starting point of Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons, currently playing at the Raleigh Little Theatre under the direction of Timothy Locklear.

McNally has chronicled the revolutionary changes experienced by the gay community in award-winning plays like Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991) and Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994, Tony for Best Play in 1995). In 1988 PBS aired Andre's Mother, his screenplay about a mother and man who meet at the memorial service for her son, his lover, Andre. McNally returns to those characters and that tense relationship for Mothers and Sons.

The play is set in New York City in 2010 in the apartment of Cal Porter (played with conviction by Brian Westbrook) and his husband Will Ogden (a heartbreaking Christopher Maxwell). Cal receives an unexpected visit from the mother of his ex-lover, Katherine (played with effective sternness by Rebecca Johnston). Cal is unsure what to make of this visit, as he has not seen Katherine since Andre died from AIDS several years ago. The relationship between these two was strained, but Cal tries his best to make his guest feel at home. Katherine, who seems to not be sure herself why she is there, stands taking in the view of Cal's beautiful apartment in her stifling fur coat, insisting that her stay will not be long. This visit will be longer than either expects. It becomes clear that Katherine hopes to relieve her own misery by observing Cal's.

But Cal has moved on. His husband and their son Bud Ogden-Porter (a natural Andrew Farmer) come home, and Katherine is challenged to face how the world has changed around her as she has failed to deal with her own grief, among other demons. This is especially tough on Will, who has lived with the ghost of Andre since the beginning of his relationship with Cal. What could this odd assortment of people possibly be to each other?

Locklear has done a fine job in his staging of this play, keeping the tension high throughout. Joncie Sarratt's upper middle-class apartment on the Upper West Side in New York City is beautifully detailed, though an old-style phone with a cord seems odd in a modern home. On the mantle sits a wood carving with the phrase "All because two people fell in love" etched into it—a poignant phrase for this production and especially true for the LGBT community. Mothers and Sons speaks to anyone who struggles with family loss and ghosts of loved ones past.

Mothers and Sons is presented by the Raleigh Little Theatre at the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, NC, through October 9th, 2016. Tickets can be purchased online at or by phone at 919-821-3111

Playwright: Terrence McNally
Director: Tim Locklear
Costume Design: Jenny Mitchell
Scenic Design: Joncie Sarratt
Lighting Design: Thomas Mauney

Katherine Gerard: Rebecca Johnston
Cal Porter: Brian Westbrook
Will Ogden: Christopher Maxwell
Bud Ogden-Porter: Andrew Farmer

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