PLAYERS BY THE SEA THEATRE REVIEW
DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]
Jacksonville Beaches’ Players by the Sea, now in its 50th season, opened the moving and thought-provoking “Mothers and Sons,” a 2014 Tony Award nominated drama on February 12, 2016. The play, which will remain on stage through February 27, should be required viewing by Jacksonville’s politicians in view of current relevant issues.
The play is certainly worth seeing by a wide audience, because it is from the pen of Terrance McNally, one of theatre’s most successful playwrights. In the early nineties, he wrote two plays that brought the subject of AIDS to the attention of mainstream America: “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” and “Love! Valour! Compassion!” for which he received a Tony. He has also received Tony awards for “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Master Class,” and “Ragtime.” Players has staged three of his plays, with past productions of “A Perfect Ganesh,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, “The Full Monty,” and “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.”
“Mothers and Sons” which is set in the present, explores the impact of loss due to the past AIDS crisis through the eyes of two survivors, and is also an inside look at gay marriage, which was inconceivable in the past, but is now legal based on a recent Supreme Court ruling. This is a one-act play that runs about ninety minutes.
The setting is an up-scale apartment on Manhattan’s West Side, where Cal Porter and Will Ogden, his husband, are raising their son Bud, who is nine years old. Their tranquil domesticity is disrupted when an unexpected guest knocks on their door.
Enter Katharine Girard, a middle-aged woman, whose son Andre, an only child, died of AIDS twenty years ago; Andre and Cal had been lovers for several years prior to his death. Why has she come? She never tells us, but her husband, who was Andre’s father, died recently. She will be traveling to Europe after she leaves New York and is apparently lonely. She tells Cal that she has come to give him Andre’s journal, but we are never really sure of her motives.
Katherine is an angry woman, who still mourns for her son. The three adults engage in heated discussions about homosexuality, the kinship between gay sons and their mothers, gay parenting, and other related subjects. Katherine meets young Bud, and seems intrigued that he is being raised by two gay men. The play has some very tender and emotional moments and there are pockets of humor as well.
“Mothers and Sons” was directed JaMario Stills in his Player’s debut. He directed the classic “Mousetrap” at Theatre Jacksonville. A Douglas Anderson graduate, he has a degree in drama from The Juilliard School. Mr. Stills is the Artistic Director of First Coast Actors Center and the Dual Critics had the opportunity to see his production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Recklessness” recently. Stills has done an excellent job of casting. It is difficult to imagine a more balanced ensemble. Just watch the way they react to or look away from one another.Rich Pintello, as Will, Bud’s biological father (aided by a lesbian friend as a surrogate) is obviously very serious about acting, and is a student at First Coast Arts Center. You may have seen him at Theatre Jacksonville, as Hank O’Reilly in “Love Goes to Press” or as Giles Ralston in “The Mousetrap.” He is convincing as Cal’s much younger stay-at-home husband and Bud’s dad. Jan Peter Buksar as Cal has the most complex male role, and effectively displays a wide range of emotions. He has a BFA in Acting from NYU, and relocated to Florida in 2013. He has been very busy acting since he arrived. Locally, Buksar was in “Quills” at Players and “Bay at the Moon” at ABET. St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre has been a second home to him, with appearances in five plays; most recently “Clybourne Park” and “The Boys Next Door”
Multi-award winning actress Brooks Anne Meierdrierks plays the demanding role of Katherine. We have seen Brooks Anne in so many comedy roles, in both community and professional theatre over the years, we had forgotten that she is a fine serious actress as well (as evidenced in previous appearances in “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Memory of Water”).
Brooks Anne captures a vast range of emotions as Katherine with a mixture of ice and vitality. We can feel her pain at the loss of her son even though twenty years have passed. Her performance will be admired by you for its intensity, whether or not you agree with her perspective.
The play ends with what we would call a happy ending, which may come as a surprise to you as it did to us. But no spoiler here.
PRODUCTION CREW: Angela Roberts (Stage Manager), Monique Franklin (Assistant Stage Manager), Jereme Raickett (Production Manager), Joe Schwarz (Scenic Design), Jim Wiggins (Lighting Designer), Lindsay Curry (Costume Designer), Samuel Fisher (Dialect Coach), Bradley Akers (Sound Designer/Art Director.
“Mother and Sons” is the type of play that sets the wheels of thought spinning; don’t miss it. Players by the Sea is located at 106 6th Street North, Jacksonville Beach. For reservations phone 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesera.org.