Mothers and Sons
by Terrence McNally
John Golden Theatre, New York City
TERRENCE MCNALLY has become the American theater’s great poet of the urgency of interpersonal relationships. “We gotta connect. We just have to. Or we die,” Johnny warns in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune—a play that movingly defines “a blowjob [as]a sensual metaphor for mutual acceptance.” Roughly from 1985 through 1995—that is, at the height of the AIDS pandemic in America—McNally penned one extraordinary play after another in which he addressed the global trauma in terms of the human need for connection and the obstacles that we create for ourselves in connecting with another person: The Lisbon Traviata (1985), Frankie and Johnny (1987), Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991), A Perfect Ganesh (1993), and, of course, the critically acclaimed and enormously popular Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994). More recently, he has celebrated in Some Men (2007) the bonds that gay men create both intentionally and unintentionally across decades and generations; the discovery in Deuce (2007) of a heroic partnership between two long-retired women tennis players; and in Unusual Acts of Devotion (2008), the small, life-affirming acts that members of a lower West-side apartment building quietly perform for one another.
Raymond-Jean Frontain is professor of English at the University of Central Arkansas.