Weeks before the Tony Award-nominated “Mothers and Sons” closed at The Golden Theatre on Broadway, the enterprising artistic director of GableStage, Joseph Adler, landed the rights. This weekend, South Florida audiences will be among the first across the country to see Terrence McNally’s critically acclaimed gay-themed play.
The 90-minute, one act show explores the real time reunion of a mother who lost her son nearly 20 years ago and his former partner, who is now married and raising a young son with his husband.
“First of all, I’m a huge fan of Terrence McNally,” explained Adler. “He’s one of our great American playwrights and this is one of his better plays. That’s saying a lot because he’s written so many great plays.”
Adler cites McNally’s “consummate craftsmanship, structure and ability to provide so much background about the characters without it sounding like boring exposition,” as appealing qualities, but ultimately he was drawn to the story.
“This woman has just dropped in on somebody and in that time, you find out so much about their relationships, the three of them and the son she lost,” he said. “It’s a beautiful play that evokes laughter and tears.”
Adler believes “Mothers and Sons” was the first Broadway — or Off Broadway —play to feature a married gay couple with a child, making the show an important commentary on the advancement of LGBT rights and acceptance.
For the regional premiere, Adler assembled a distinguished cast of award-winning actors, including Angie Radosh in the role created by actress Tyne Daly (“Cagney & Lacey”) on Broadway and actor/playwright Michael McKeever as her son’s former partner.
He said of the dream cast, “This has been an absolute joy. I’ve worked with Angie once before and I’ve known Michael for a long time, but never worked with him in a play. I don’t think I’ve had a better time. They’re so dedicated. It’s almost too easy.”
As a playwright, McKeever brings a unique perspective to his role, noting the big changes in the way LGBT families are viewed by society.
“It really says a lot about how our world has changed,” McKeever commented. “Twenty years ago, there was such a stigma around AIDS and in just a few years, so much has changed. Getting married and having children is now the norm. [McNally] presents these issues in a really tight, smartly written hour-and-a-half play.”
When he learned he had attained the rights, Adler substituted “Mothers and Sons” into the last slot of his 2013-14 season, largely because of the opportunity to shape opinions in the community.
An unabashed liberal, Adler warned, “We have a mid-term election coming up here in a state where the attorney general and the governor are doing everything they can to keep same sex marriage out of the law books. The play not only deals with [the issue], it makes a compelling case.”
He quickly added, “Unfortunately, 50 percent of the assholes in this country are dinosaurs and a lot of them live in Florida.”
As for Adler’s audiences, well, they’re used to edgy plays that tackle the issues society currently faces. Next season, the theater company will present two important LGBT-themed plays: “Choir Boy,” by the internationally-acclaimed gay playwright and Miami native Terrell Alvin McCraney, and “Casa Valentina,” Harvey Fierstein’s comedy set at a Catskills resort that caters to cross-dressing men that also recently played on Broadway.
Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” opens Saturday, Sept. 20 at GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Ave. (in the Biltmore Hotel) in Coral Gables, and runs through Oct. 19. Tickets are $47.50 – 50 at GableStage.org. FREE tickets are available for LGBT audiences to the preview at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19. Call the box office, 305-445-1119 to reserve seats.