Mothers & Sons: Star Turn for Brooks Anne Meierdierks

February 25, 2016 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

This compassionate play examines the transformative power of forgiveness and our evolving definitions of marriage and family. In the process, relevant, small theater expertly done give Brooks Anne Meierdierks a chance to put in a brilliant, poignant performance. Check out more after the jump!

Katherine Gerard, the bereaved mother at the heart of Terrence McNally's haunting drama "Mothers and Sons," now in its final week of production at Players by the Sea, is a study in bitterness and nihilism. The source of her pain began when her only son died of AIDS, and it has continued for more than two decades, marinating in terrible guilt for not having accepted her son's gayness and abandoning him as he died of AIDS. Years after his death she realizes that she let him die never really knowing her son at all.

The world around Katherine (Brooks Anne Meierdierks) has completely transformed--- as it has in the real world. Two decades of progress and water changes in the way society feels about LGBT people make her abandonment and rejection of her only son less explicable.  Even to herself.  McNally sets his play on the day that Katherine visits her son's old boyfriend, Cal Porter (Jan Peter Buksar).

Cal's life has continued. He has gone into money management, and done quite well for himself. Prime residence in tony real estate environs, tasteful decoration and material wealth. He is legally married to a handsome young husband, Will Ogden (Rich Pintello). And these two men have a kid. A very cute one (played by Kyle Conrad D’Andrea Cox).

In America, a nuclear family was once described as a mother, a father, and 2.5 children. Like many things from a bygone era, this simplistic setup has evolved and grown complicated. Ask someone to define family, and the challenge becomes trying to think up all the viable options. The decline of the supposed nuclear family has given way to a number of new definitions.

Family is at the heart of McNally’s Mothers and Sons, but that heart beats in spite of tragic scars. Much of the play deals with the fallout of the AIDS epidemic.

An idyllic veneer of familial contentment in an NYC apartment is slowly stripped away by the grieving mother, who has unexpectedly ended up in the home of her dead son’s surviving lover. However, unlike her, he has moved on to find love and life again. At once appalled, jealous, envious and racked with remorse, Katherine is furious about issues whose provenance are so outdated that she has no right to be angry. And she has to swallow these emotions as she is a guest in the home of men she hardly knows at all.

Soon enough, though, he reveals that the depths of his pain and loss still exist immovable, and that memories, even tragic ones, deserve their place in learning how to heal.

On a beautiful, expressive and realistic stage (designed by the inimitable Joe Schwarz and brought to life by a number of talented volunteers headed by the ever-productive Jereme Raickett), a cast of four draws the audience into this world.

Brooks Anne Meierdierks and Jan Peter Buksar do the majority of verbal and emotional sparring as Katherine and Cal, grounding the play in a heartfelt tug-of-war over the memory of their absent but oft-mentioned son and lover, Andre. Somewhere during all the witty, withering repartee, Brooks Anne Meierdierks hands in one of the best character performances of the season so far. She literally mesmerizes audiences with the incredibly complex character choices and tightly controlled chaos that go into her portrayal of Katherine. Meierdierks recasts her, humanizes her and brings out sympathy, hostility, disgust, amusement and grief from the audience.  Just a perfect storm of actress and character, and always a privilege to be in the room when it happens.

Here is a link to the NYTimes review of the show starring Tyne Daly, the original actress in the role brought to life by Brooks Anne.  The Times does a pretty amazing thing for some of their reviews: they have posted videos of the actors performing the role for the camera.  At the top of the page is one of Daly.  Compare her very competent performance to Brooks Anne's in the show.  This is one of those rare occasions where our hometown girl knocks that ball right back over Yankee Stadium.

A pretty perfect foil for the stellar, nervous performance by Jan Peter Beksar, who sells the relationship as authentically artificial on the surface, and slowly reveals real emotional pain and grief underneath.

Rich Pintello plays Cal’s husband, Will, and for the purposes of the play, turns in one of the key performances.  Because of Brooks Anne's decision to play the role with visible authentic emotion throughout, without the callow, handsome, millennial presence provided by Rich Pintello the play could have easily wandered off into maudlin territory.  But Pintello is grounded, and his character is obviously trying to understand something that his character believes to be important despite not being able to understand it. Because the two leads must take a break from their own private gestalt to interact with his simple, youthful, not so casual indifference, it plays very very naturally.

Finally, Kyle Conrad D’Andrea Bell portrays the couple’s precocious son, Bud, giving the audience the perspective of innocence.

Director JaMario Stills, with his deep and varied experience as an actor and the director of the Performers Academy, as well as his ubiquitous presence in artistic and cultural organizations around town, brings all of these moving pieces together in soul-piercing fashion. The effect is clear but quite profound. This piece of theatre will certainly make the audience reevaluate their concepts of love, loss, and the meaning of family.

text: cameron pfahler and stephen dare


Remaining performances:

Thursday, February 25th
Friday, February 26th
Saturday, February 27th

All performances start at 8PM

Come early and check out local artist Jami Childers’ work in the Grune Family Gallery, as well as the North Florida Quilt Chapter and their portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

General Admission: $23.00
Senior/Student/Military: $20.00
Thursday Nights are Student Nights: 1/2 Price Tix at the Door with a Valid Student I.D.

904.249.0289 |

Katharine Gerard: Brooks Anne Meierdierks
Cal Porter: Jan Peter Buksar
Will Ogden: Rich Pintello
Bud Ogden-Porter: Kyle Conrad D’Andrea Cox

DIRECTOR: JaMario Stills
STAGE MANAGER: Angela Roberts