Mothers and Sons
By Geary Danihy
If you buy into the premise of Mothers and Sons, a musical revue that recently opened at MTC Mainstage in Westport, everyone who is gay is sensitive, caring, loving and life-embracing and, of course, misunderstood, and everyone who doesn’t accept homosexuality is conniving, narrow-minded, out of touch with his or her feelings and, taken to the extreme, capable of murder in his or her misguided need to eradicate the “alternate lifestyle” from the face of the earth.
Of course, things are not as simple as Kevin Connors, MTC’s executive artistic director, and Joe Landry, MTC’s marketing and PR director, would have you believe, but let’s not let reality get in the way of theater, especially if it has an agenda.
Landry and Connors co-wrote the revue’s book and Connors wrote the music and lyrics, and each must have had a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Cliches close at hand as they created the show.
Basically, Mothers and Sons is a sucker’s game that loads the dice and shaves the cards right from the start and unabashedly wants the players (read audience) to buy into the premise and smile as they are emotionally taken for all they are worth. To pull this off, you must have stock characters, and the revue is rife with them. First, you have the male couple, one a teacher, Daniel (Rob Sutton), the other a doctor, Bobby (Tom Stuart), who are so squeaky clean, so earnest and so committed to each other that you are shamed by your own muddled, confused emotional life, regardless of its inclination. There’s a saintly nimbus about these two that puts mere mortals to shame.
Then there’s the loving, understanding mother of Tom, Abby (Carolyn Marcell), who is a saint in her own right. In Zen-like fashion, she accepts life as it is, has embraced her son’s homosexuality, offers a comforting shoulder to all and sundry and is therefore a candidate for Earth Mother of the Year. To give Marcell her due, she is the only one up there on the stage who gives a hint that there just might be more to her character than the lines Connors and Landry have given her.
To flush out the list of cardboard characters, we have the media-shark mother, Dr. Sarah Masters (Susan Terry), who has a radio show that allows her to tell people “how to live their lives.” Inevitably, her agenda draws the attention of the drooling, lunatic Right as represented by Brian Sparks (Larry Daggett), who, in a Faustian moment, offers Susan the world (or, at least a prime-time TV show) on a platter if she will only continue to bash those who need bashing.
But wait, Sarah has a teenage son and he is…yes, you guessed it, conflicted. Mark (Michael Lowney) is about to graduate high school as class valedictorian but, oh heavy, dark burden, he is pretty sure he is gay, and what future is there for a gay son of a Mom who eats tree-huggers for breakfast and castigates his kind with a sneer and a snappish remark?
Of course, there’s a heavy price to pay for insensitivity, and Sarah must perform penance for her actions. Bobby and Daniel eventually marry, much to the understanding delight of Abby (for, you see, she’s not losing a son but gaining another), and the grudging acceptance of Sarah, who, after trashing the Right-wing media during her first prime-time show, ends up in a support meeting for parents of gay and lesbian children, a brave smile on her face.
Oh, yes. I did mention that this is a musical revue, and the music, though not riveting, is serviceable, but it also serves the revue’s agenda, and thus it is often manipulative, reductive and, given the overly melodramatic nature of the revue, essentially maudlin.
Regardless of how far we’ve come from witch burning, lynching and overt, brutal gay-bashing, being homosexual in an essentially heterosexual society is still not a walk in the park. With elements of our society still firmly believing that a homosexual will, if allowed to pursue his or her sexual proclivity, ruin the country and all it stands for, poison our wells and, even worse, pervert every fourth-grader he or she can lay hands on, we are still far away from unalloyed acceptance of the “alternative life style.”
Acceptance can only come if there is an honest dialogue and, unfortunately, Mothers and Sons is not interested in honest dialogue or discussion, or plumbing the depths of the pain and delight inherent in human relationships. The play’s message is, we are right and you are wrong. It remains to be seen who the “we” and the “you” are. Perhaps a mirror would help to answer the question.
Mothers and Sons runs through Sunday, Feb 1. For tickets or more information call 454-3883 or go to www.MTCMainStage.org.
This review originally appeared in The Norwalk Citizen-News.