Review: Mothers and Sons at Sacramento Theatre Company

Only two of them can hear the dog whistle.

Only two of them can hear the dog whistle.

Photo courtesy of Charr Crail Photography

Showtimes: Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm, Wed 7pm. Through 4/30; $15-$38; Sacramento Theatre Company, Pollock Stage, 1419 H Street; (916) 443-6722;
Rated 4.0

A sour, dour woman stands in the middle of the stage, rigid in her stance, frigid in her emotions. She’s gazing ahead of her, not making eye contact with the man she’s come to visit.

So begins Mothers and Sons by award-winning playwright Terrence McNally, a story of a mother’s long-running resentment of her deceased son’s gay relationship, following his death of AIDS decades ago. Katherine has dropped in uninvited and unexpected on her late son’s widower, Cal, who is now happily married and has a child.

This award-winning 90-minute play being staged at STC’s intimate Pollock Stage explores the past, present and future of this small cast of characters—mother Katharine (Lori Russo), Cal (Casey McClellan), his husband Will (Cole Winslow) and their young son Bud (Miller Traum). It traverses many decades as well as many issues, pains, battles and triumphs in the gay community.

Katharine is still uncomfortable about her son’s gay life, as well as the social progress that has happened since his death. But Cal has moved on and embraced his new life—another in a string of Katharine’s resentments.

The STC cast works well together to create believable characters in this compact, heart-tugging story, which takes place all in one long scene, including Russo’s challenging portrayal of a not-too-likable figure, with McClellan’s expert volleying of her ever-changing emotions. Winslow gives us a sympathetic and realistic husband, while Traum is a rare young actor who reacts like a child.