Dorset Players present poignant human story on stage
The play, directed by Sherry Krazter and produced by Cheryl Gushee, had its world premiere in 2013 and its Broadway opening in 2014, both headlined by Tyne Daly.
The story revolves around Katharine Gerard (played by Lynne Marcus), who lost her son 20 years earlier to the scourge of AIDS. Katherine visits her son's former partner, Cal (played by Paul Michael Brinker), who has married Will (played by Mike Cutler). The couple have a son, Bud (played by Luca Bowen and Julian Pirie).
Set in the couple's Central Park West apartment on a day that's both bitterly cold and the shortest amount of sunlight of the year, the story takes the audience down a path of wounded relationships, and the fragile nature of the human condition, as Katharine and Will attempt reconciliation.
Kratzer said the play's original star power drew her to it. "I was originally drawn to this play because Terrence McNally wrote it for Tyne Daly," Kratzer said. "That's an impressive combination of talent. I could not pass up the chance to see the show on Broadway, and loved it."
This is a story, Kratzer continued, with specific life circumstances most of the audience members will never encounter.
As such, McNally lulls viewers into feeling safe and untouchable when the play begins. Kratzer was quick to note that Katharine "is surely nothing like any of us."
"She displays her every fault without a hint of shame," Kratzer said. "We can't identify with Katharine until we can't help but identify with her. The fear of losing one's child is universal. The reality that you may never feel alive again is paralyzing. I was drawn to direct this play because its humor and sadness both caught me off guard. That's what I hope I can deliver to our audience in Dorset."
As the central figure, actor Lynne Marcus agreed with Kratzer, adding that she believes theater is successful if the audience goes away "changed, transformed or educated in a new way."
"Mothers and Sons " will run from March 2-11 at The Dorset Players, 104 Cheney Rd., Dorset. Info and tickets: dorsetplayers.org or 802-867-5570.
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"I hope the audience sees that [Katharine], who is stuck in the ideas of the '80s is able to change," Marcus said. "Katherine's view of family is the old school of thinking. [V]ictims of terrible tragedy can move forward and not hold on to their grief and love and family can come in many forms. [W]e need to open our hearts to love, and human beings can change."
These emotional threads are woven throughout the play, according to actor Brinker, who as Cal must stand as the target of Katharine's angst.
Brinker explained that he had lived in New York City during the height of the AIDS crisis, and that so much of the show was an emotional return to his past, claiming that he "knew these characters in the play very well, from real life."
"Any gay man who matured during the rise of HIV/AIDS has a sense of loss and strength within the community, usually coupled by guilt if they watched their friends get sick and die, and they remained healthy," Brinker said. "Cal has been through it all, but finds himself serenely on the other side until his deceased lover's mother shows up 20 years later and brings it all back out."
Producer Gushee nodded at the detail and depth of Brinker's assessment, saying that watching the talented actors develop their characters was a treat for anyone involved in the show's production.
"I truly love watching rehearsals, seeing the characters [evolve] as the play reveals itself," Gushee said. "It's an inside view of the creative process. The play deals with forgiveness of others and of oneself, as it explores the past and looks to the future. It's a very thoughtful journey, told with humor and compassion."
Kratzer concluded by emphasizing the nerves touched within her cast, and what effect might result with the audience.
"Directors want their actors to draw from their own experiences," Kratzer said. "However, it's been hard to keep them from going to dark places when delivering painful dialogue. It's absolutely understandable and takes an immense amount of control. They are finding their sweet spots between control and authenticity. When this happens, there is magic."
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