PLATTSBURGH — There are 12 weeks until Christmas, and Artistry Community Theatre taps the most wonderful time of the year, sort of.
“Mothers and Sons” by Terrence McNally opens this weekend, Oct. 4-5, at the Plattsburgh City Hall Rotunda, but think twice before taking the kids to see it unless they are 16 and older and can handle mature content.
“'Mothers and Sons' is about a mother who is visiting her dead son's lover,” Derrick A. Hopkins, director, said.
“Back in the 1980s with the AIDS scare and everything and how it really impacted the gay community, so it's 20 years later and how people are still dealing with the effects of that and the AIDS epidemic of the '80s and how it really impacted the arts community and how generations of artists were lost at that time.”
Katherine (Leslie Hearn) lost her son, Andre, to AIDS and visits her deceased son's partner, Cal Porter (Andrew Ducharme), to return Andre's journal.
Cal is married to Will Ogden (Mason Barber), and the two of them have a six-year-old son Bud (Jack Sauter).
“Cal and Andre were together for six years before he contracted AIDS and died,” Hopkins said.
“Andre died at 29. Andre's mother and father were not accepting of him being gay. They never came as he was dying. They never came to support him. Now, here it is 20 years later and Katherine has found herself at the door of her dead son's lover.”
Through the course of the play, Katherine discovers why she is there and she is presented with the fact that Cal has moved on.
He has a husband and a child.
It's a revelation to her that Andre could have had a life had he survived.
“Katherine is such a layered character,” Hopkins said.
“It's such a challenging role because the character clearly loved her son, but it was a different time. She didn't understand that aspect of our culture. Now here it is in 2014, and it's a completely different time where you have marriage equality. Gay couples can have children. That wasn't a possibility, and they address that in the play. They say at that time that wasn't a possibility.”
As times evolve, so has the lexicon.
“Boyfriends were for teenagers and partners sounded like a law firm,” Hopkins said.
“Husband wasn't a possibility. He was 'Andre and I was Cal, and we were friends that lived together.' That's such a dated thing to think about now.
“Cal has to come to terms with the fact that this woman who is very hard, very judgmental; they have this bond over someone that they both loved.”
“Mothers and Sons” explores the effect of Andre's death on all and offers a glimmer of hope that healing can begin.
When “Mothers and Sons” opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre, Hopkins was on a random weekend in New York City in 2014.
“I just walked up to a box office, whatever I'm feeling at that moment, and I see the billboard with Tyne Daly on it and I love Tyne Daly,” he said.
“I said I want to go to see that because I want to see her. I'm at the box office, I said, 'Hey, I just need one ticket. Do you have a random seat?' They're like, 'How's front row, center?' I'm like 'Perfect.'”
Hopkins struck up a conversation with a gay couple sitting beside him.
“They were in a monogamous relationship during that time, and they watched all of their friends get AIDS and die,” he said.
“They told me story after story of watching their friends pass and suffer from AIDS. So, we're watching this play and, of course, Tyne Daley is wonderful and the other actors are wonderful, but in the middle of the play when it gets a little emotional and starts to talk about that time, the gentlemen who was sitting next to me collapsed in grief on the floor and crawled out of the theater.”
The moment left an impact on Hopkins.
“Here, you had a piece of art that could address something that society really didn't talk about at that time,” he said.
“Here it was on the stage, tangible, that he was able to see and experience again, it was just too much for him. He left and he didn't come back.
You have the play, which is very powerful but then you add that component where I kind of made that connection with a stranger before the start of it, it's like 'Whoa, I need to do this play at some point.'”
The play unwinds in Cal and Will's East Side apartment in NYC.
“It's just their living room,” Hopkins said.
“There's a sofa, a couple of end tables, a dining room table and a Christmas tree. It's just going into the Christmas season when the play takes place. The family — Will, Cal and their son, Bud — are supposed to be decorating the tree that evening.
“But this woman has showed up who is intruding on their family time when they were going to decorate the Christmas tree but now they are dealing with her and all of her issues.”
Katherine's intrusion is very awkward at the beginning.
“Why is she here, and then it slowly starts to come out of her,” Hopkins said.
“And really what she is seeking is a family. Her son is gone. Her husband just passed, and here she is alone in the world.
“She has some things that are unresolved and that she just has to deal with before she can move on in her life.”
“Mothers and Sons” will raise money for Clinton County Foster Care.
“Steel Magnolia” proceeds went to the Diabetes Association.
'Tick, Tick...Boom!” proceeds went the Evergreen Townhouse Association to fight homelessness.
“For 'Music Man,' we did a little plug for ourselves just because money has been tight,” Hopkins said.
“Since I just adopted a little girl from Foster Care, I thought it would be a nice sort of plug to raise the money Clinton County Foster Care and try to solicit, maybe get some new parents signed up for Foster Care because there is such a need right now.”
Social workers tell him the need has been steadily rising.
“I thought since we're dealing with family, why not?” Hopkins said.
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Mothers and Sons" by Terrence McNally and Artistry Community Theatre director Derrick A. Hopkins.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings, Oct. 4 and 5. Matinees 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5 and 6.
ADMISSION: General admission tickets are $16, available at artistrytheatre.org and at the door.
NOTE: Contains adult content and language. May not be suitable for children under the age of 16.