This month The Boulevard Theatre presents a staged reading in an intimate space not far from UWM. Terrence McNally’s Mothers And Sons is a delicate drama of three people who don’t quite know each other. An unexpected meeting results in some pretty deep conversation about the meaning of human connection. It’s the perfect drama for a staging that eschews everything but the script, the actors, the characters and the audience.
Joan End has the reserved, conservative presence of an occasionally brutal gentlewoman named Katherine. End plays the mother of a man who passed away quite a long time ago. She’s dropping by the New York apartment of a man her late son had been in a very serious relationship with. She’s come by his place in an attempt to understand herself by way of understanding something about the man he fell in love with.
Mark Neufang plays Cal--the man who had loved Katherine’s son. It’s been ages since his passing. Cal is now married to another man. Cal’s quite successful. He works in finance. Neufang’s thoughtfully compassionate stage presence serves the character well. He maintains a generally congenial attitude even when communication gets a bit difficult. Cal’s openness to a woman who is essentially an uninvited stranger is a point of frustration with his husband Will.
Will is played with tempered passion by Nathan Marinan. Will has been dealing with the ghost of Cal’s long-lost love for a very long time. He is understandably upset when the mother of said ghost pops-by on her way to Europe. Marinan carefully weaves frustration with tightly-held sense of decorum and genuine need to understand the deeper matters of bigotry and ignorance. It’s a very balanced approach to a very sophisticated character.
Pamela Brown Stace rounds out the cast as both narrator and Bud: the young son of Cal and Will. Bud seems to thematically represent a future in which everyone could be accepted regardless of who they are. (Bud is openly accepting of everyone.) Pamela Brown Stace plays Bud with simple, innocent delivery lovingly bereft of the exaggeration that so often occurs when an adult plays a child.
The biggest presence in the drama is the absence of Katherine’s son. If Bud represents a kind of hopeful future, then Katherine’s son represents a tumultuous past that is rapidly being forgotten. There’s a lot being said in the script about the gradual march of time. Katherine’s an older generation. Cal’s older than Will. Will is a doting parent of Bud. McNally’s script intricately pieces together a very complicated dynamic between every character. In a staged reading, the relations between the characters feel that much more immediate than a full staging might manage. Director Mark Bucher has found a respectable balance for a remarkably nuanced drama.
Boulevard Theatre’s staged reading of Mothers and Sons runs through Nov. 15 at Plymouth Church on 2717 East Hampshire. For ticket reservations, visit the show’s page on Brown Paper Tickets.