Ours is a theater family. I have two sons currently studying theater in college, and as often as we can, we find our way to the theater. It was therefore no surprise that this mother would find herself in the audience of Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons, sitting between her gay twin sons.
As I look back on my journey of motherhood, I remember my early epiphany. Newly pregnant, I went to my second OB-GYN appointment with Dr. Cherry (yes, that was his name) on Park Avenue. At that moment I recognized that while the nine-month gestation period is necessary to grow a fetus, it is also the time necessary to learn how to worry like a seasoned mother. The prenatal testing allowed me to worry sufficiently, and in the end I was blessed with a beautiful daughter. Four years later I was doubly blessed with twin boys.
Successfully I worried about my children's school crises and victories, their sports experiences, their musical triumphs and their theater auditions. However, all those concerns seemed less significant as they grew older. Eventually I came to realize that their lives as adults would bring far more challenging worries.
To paraphrase Katharine's (Tyne Daly) sentiments, my sons were straight before they went to college and returned after their freshman year gay. The first called me from college. For a time we were saddened by the thought of the angst he'd gone through while concealing this information, and the difficulties he might face in the world after acknowledging his homosexuality. Four months later the second son walked into our bedroom and came out to us. As he left the room he tweeted, "interrupted Bill Maher to tell my parents I was gay and they were totally cool with it. #mostliberalparents."
My life has been steeped in the arts, my world filled with gay friends. Upon hearing our news, these gay friends would assure me that if I could choose a time for my children to be gay, it would be now. When asked how I was handling their gay identity, I would simply reply that I wanted them to have what I have. I did not want their lives to be difficult. My husband and I would keep our worries to ourselves, except to make sure that they were safe, but I wanted assurance that they could find someone to share their lives with.
It hasn't been easy to repress the memories of New York City during the '80s: the news reports that people were wearing gloves in the subway to avoid the HIV virus; the funeral for a 30-year-old cousin who died from AIDS, though no one acknowledged it. We had friends and family in the gay community who were not being treated and were dying. I am passionate about making my sons aware of the battles that have been fought to make their lives easier. However, the most disturbing fear that I've had about my sons' lives is that they might not enjoy the freedom to have the loving marriage that I have.
As I sat in the theater, I was deeply moved. The themes, relationships, and struggles resonated with me, and like a warm embrace, Mothers and Sons calmed me, educated me, and showed me that my sons can have every bit as beautiful a family as I have. They can experience the worries about school, the concerns about failures, and the joy of raising their own children. If they so choose, they can have it all.
Few plays on Broadway today speak as urgently to our times as Mothers and Sons, the 20th Broadway production from legendary four-time Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally, now playing at the Golden Theatre and nominated for the 2014 Tony Award for Best Play. In the play Katherine, portrayed by Tony- and Emmy-winning Tyne Daly in perhaps her most formidable role, visits the former lover of her late son 20 years after his death, only to find him now married to another man and raising a small child. A funny, vibrant, and deeply moving look at one woman's journey to acknowledge how society has evolved -- and how she might -- Mothers and Sons is certain to spark candid conversations about regret, acceptance, and the evolving definition of "family." Daly is joined by Broadway vet Frederick Weller (Take Me Out), Tony nominee Bobby Steggert (Ragtime), and newcomer Grayson Taylor, under the direction of Tony nominee Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall). For more information visit mothersandsonsbroadway.com.