‘Mothers and Sons’ reflects on AIDS epidemic


James LaMonte was attracted to directing the play “Mothers and Sons” because he views it as a history lesson of the lives of gay men over the past two decades.

“The play charts the gains and losses, victories and defeats for gay men in the years since AIDS was first identified,” the Indianapolis resident said. “The play is a continuation of ‘Andre’s Mother,’ Terrence McNally’s 1990 television play starring Sada Thompson and Richard Thomas who meet at Andre’s memorial service. Twenty years later, Andre’s Mother, Katharine, and Andre’s former lover, Cal, meet again and they have not spoken since.”

Main Street Productions is presenting “Mothers and Sons” from Nov. 10 to 20 at Basile Westfield Playhouse.

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“I love the fact that there is a wide generational spread between the characters,” LaMonte said. “There is a 9-year-old boy, a 20-something young millennial gay man, his late 40s husband who attended to his partner Andre until he died of AIDS and then mourned him for eight years, and Katharine, whose rage has not lessened in the two decades since her son’s burial. They become a lovely quartet, each playing notes of love, loss and regret, which never grows old in theater, and neither does the complicated relationships between mothers and sons.”

Zionsville resident Elizabeth Ruddell plays Katharine, which she describes as a very emotional part to play.

“The role of Katharine is a challenge to play, not only because of the subject matter but because I have very little in common with her,” Ruddell said. “While we are both parents, my children are alive while her only child has passed.”

Ruddell had heard of the play but had never seen it performed.

“The moment I saw it was written by Terrence McNally, I knew it would be a wonderful play,” Ruddell said. “He is the author of other famous plays such as ‘Love! Valour! Compassion!’ and ‘Master Class’, among others. He has won four Tony Awards for his plays.”

Although she has been acting for more than 40 years, Ruddell is appearing in her first play with Main Street Productions..

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Indianapolis resident Austin Uebelhor plays Cal, a middle-aged gay man who lost his partner during the AIDS pandemic. Since then, Cal has married and had a child.

“Cal spends a good bit of the show remembering his lost love and everything they went through together,” Uebelhor said. “Both tears and anger are brought out of him over the course of the show. It’s been quite the experience digging in and bringing out this complex wave of emotions.”

The show first premiered on Broadway in 2014.

“As a result, I wasn’t familiar with the show, but the content interested me and it seemed like it would be an amazing show to help bring to the stage,” Uebelhor said. “I never really saw the devastation of the AIDS epidemic firsthand, so it has been difficult for me to figure out what kind of emotional toll that had to have taken on a character like Cal. It wiped out a generation of gay men in just a few years, which is both devastating and difficult to comprehend.”

In Christmas 2021, Uebelhor portrayed Ralph Sheldrake in the musical ‘White Christmas,’ and then this past April, he was Carl in the comedy “Flaming Idiots.”

Georgeanna Teipen is the producer. The other actors are Nicholas Heskett as Will Ogden and Tyler Acquviva as Bud Ogden-Porter.

For more, visit westfieldplayhouse.org.