Posts Tagged Terrence McNally

Ragtime: Play Review


Terrence Mcnally’s musical masterpiece “Ragtime” at theatreworks in Mountain View, based on adaptation of Doctorow’s incisive novel, is directed by Theatreworks’ founder, Robert Kelly with haunting music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. 

Doctorow’s sweeping semi-historical novel centers around the 1908 to 1913 time frame when the American dream was just taking shape; a time when people were beginning to raise their voices against capitalism and class, gender and race differences. The story weaves through experiences of three fictional families. In one instance, ironically when the father goes off on a yearlong expedition to the Arctic, it is the mother, his wife, whose eyes open to a wider world. Whereas in Harlem, a talented black pianist is reunited with his true love and the couple hopes to raise together their infant son, only find their dreams dashed, time after time, by racism, injustice, and violence. 

These heartrending fictional stories intersect and weave through the performance, mixing with some of the factual stories of famous figures from history such as Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington and J. P. Morgan. At the turn of the century, when novel ideas fueled by socialism and anarchism were calling for equality and equal opportunities, there was another revolution in process that impacted transportation and eventually helped transform the agricultural economies into more equitable and prosperous industrial ones. Through the technology and process innovation that came with the assembly line in the making of Model T, Henry Ford paid higher wages to the workers and delivered a simple, reliable and affordable car that an American of average means could afford. . 

This was however, also a time when the calls for equality did not amount to much. Ragtime centers around the heartache of quashed love, dashed dreams, violent injustice, and quietly smoldering anger that will eventually bring about massive transformation from the ashes of those who perished, seeking and fighting for justice. Understandable as the impatience and hunger for change is at these times, such a peek into history is also a lesson in patience for patience is most challenging when we are on a cusp of transformation, as we may be right now, perhaps.

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Mothers and Sons – Play Review


Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsThe play “Mothers and Sons” by playwright, Terrence McNally and directed by Jeffrey Bracco is a funny and poignant tale of loss and love.  When Katharine (Lillian Bogovich), Andre’s mother shows up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Andre’s former boyfriend, Cal (Damian Vega), 20 some years after losing her son to AIDS, she is bitter, angry, hurt and in search of a target. Cal has also gone through deep loss but has found love again, in his husband Will (Max Tachis), and they have a son Bud (Izaiah Gutierrez), they deeply love. Still mourning and reeling from the loss of her son, Katharine sinks deeper into gloom at seeing Cal’s life. She asks, “why did your life got better after Andre and why did mine get worst”?

Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsAs per my observation however, this story is less about mothers and sons and more about one mother and her son. It is Katharine’s nature and temperament that has put her into an indefinite period of gloom and bitterness. She describes herself as “I am not a joiner, I did not like to cook, I am a widow”. Katherine could not cultivate intimacy and closeness with either her husband or her son, Andre.  She recalls Andre being “remote” and observes with some contempt that she was relegated to being a mere chauffeur. Many mothers might have experiences of similar moments but they put aside those moments and find more enduring closeness and love with their children.

While Katharine’s temperament may have precluded her from enjoying a close relationship with her son, this story is also wrapped in time when gays did not find acceptance in society and were subjected to biases and stereotypes. Katharine, found it hard to reconcile her preconceived notions about gays. She says, “I hate that word. It could be something nice, joyful. But we lost that battle too”. Sadly, her life is an endless series of battles she has brought onto herself.  And sadly, reeling in her own misery, she misses completely how an entire young generation of her son’s age was lost to AIDS epidemic, “a living, breathing generation, not a footnote in history”. Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsJust when it seems, there would be no hope for Katharine, then in the midst of sorrow, the characters find moments of compassion and glimmer of hope, and even love.  Mothers and Sons is a heartbreaking, emotionally nuanced story of unending mourning and loss and it is also a tale of human compassion where it is never too late to reconcile with one’s loss, only to stumble onto enduring nature of love. Lillian Bogovich as Katharine is absolutely amazing. This is a must-see play if only to watch the brilliant cast playing out the complex human drama with all the emotional nuances and with deep sensitivity. Mothers and Sons is running at the CityLights Theater in San Jose, till February 17, 2019 and tickets can be obtained at www.cltc.org .

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