“Mothers and Sons” at Arts West

The great thrill of this production, directed by Makaela Pollock, for me was getting a chance to see Suzy Hunt in action. She is simply astounding playing Katherine whose son, Andre, died of Aids 20 years before this play takes place. She comes unannounced to the West Side Manhattan apartment of her son’s former partner, Cal, who after a long period of mourning married Will. They’re a devoted couple both absolutely besotted with their young son, Bud.

Cal did indeed deeply love Andre, but just as American attitudes toward homosexuality have changed over the past 20 years, so too has he. He’s been able to move beyond his grief and now is able to enjoy the benefits of contemporary gay life and acceptance. He doesn’t have to hide his sexuality any more. He can fall in love again and does, but this time, he can be married. He can be a father. Life for him is so, so different.

Katherine’s unexpected visit is more than a little disconcerting. She never did and still doesn’t understand homosexuality. She suspects that it comes into being because of the bad influence of some perverted person. She’s still in deep mourning for her son, looking to blame someone for turning him into a homosexual, and, of course, it’s Cal she blames.

And so we have here an almost insurmountable generation gap. It pits his graciousness and happy new life against her anger and pain. Suzy Hunt as Katherine, the fur coated, incensed woman from Dallas commands the stage. It’s a tour de force performance. She fires her poison tipped arrows with panache. She’s haughty, nasty, rude, in pain. Watch her face. Its parts are in constant motion. She licks her lips, purses them, flashes her eyes, grimaces, sneers, scowls. She’s a wounded creature striking out as a trapped animal might.

And poor Cal, played with patience and frustration by Evan Whitfield, does his best to fend off her anger and try to educate her. The tension between the two of them is somewhat relieved when Jason Sanford as Will enters with their son, a preconscious little guy who in this production is just a little too cute, a bit too mannered.

Jason Sanford & Evan Whitfield. Photo by John McLellen

Scenic designer Christopher Mumaw’s set works well to create a Manhattan milieu. With its tight, multipurpose space and huge windows looking out over the West side, the Hudson River, New Jersey and the sunset, it is the perfect evocation of New York. It’s a tight space that works well to encompass the taut action.

Through Feb. 11 at Arts West Playhouse and Gallery, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org)

 

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