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Westfield Playhouse Celebrates New Diversity, Inclusion Play Offering

(Photo courtesy of Rob Slaven and Indy Ghost Light Photography)
Basile Westfield Playhouse celebrates diversity, inclusion and new voices in its next play, “Mothers and Sons,” opening Thursday, featuring Tyler Aquaviva (from left), Elizabeth Ruddell, Austin Uebelhor and Nicholas Heskett.

Main Street Productions in Westfield is expanding its horizons to include a new “Artist’s Choice Production” that celebrates inclusion, diversity and new voices.

“Mothers and Sons,” the first play offering in this “category,” opens Thursday at Basile Westfield Playhouse.

Adding this “Artist’s Choice” production may not be a moneymaker for the Playhouse, however, the theater’s board of directors believes that the plays “are important in message or the arts to be brought to stage,” said Playhouse board director Bill Miller.

First-time Playhouse director Jim LaMonte is thrilled to be directing this play by Terrence McNally.

More than 30 years ago, LaMonte saw McNally’s touching teleplay called “Andre’s Mother,” about a Manhattan memorial service in Central Park for Andre Gerard, who died of AIDS. In the film, Andre’s mother cannot come to terms with his death or share her grief with Cal, Andre’s lover. The made-for-TV drama starred Sada Thompson, from “Family” and Richard Thomas from “The Waltons.”

“In 2014 I was surprised to see that McNally wrote a play, ‘Mothers and Sons,’ which takes place 20 years after the memorial,” LaMonte said.

In “Mothers and Sons,” Katherine pays a surprise visit to Cal, who has now married to a younger man, Will, and has a 6-year-old son, Bud. They attempt to reconcile, but you realize that Katherine has not gone on with her life, and is still holding others responsible for her actions.”

“I read the script and it has been on my radar to direct for some time,” said LaMonte. The play will be onstage for eight performances, through Nov. 20. Tickets are still available.

“‘Mothers and Sons” is 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 director said.

LaMonte, who is a married gay man, said so much has changed in the lives of LGTB people in the last 20 years. “The word ‘gay’ is now acceptable. The fact that gays can marry and live free without fear of losing jobs or status, something I never dreamed would ever happen to the gay community in my lifetime. Audiences who see this play will leave feeling compassionate to the plight of young gay men who struggled before 2014.”

The cast?

He said, “I love the fact that there is a wide generational spread between the characters.”

LaMonte said there is a 6-year-old boy played by Tyler Aquaviva, a 20-something young millennial gay man played by Nicholas Heskett, his late 40s husband who attended his partner Andre until he died of AIDS and then mourned him for eight years, played by Austin Uebelhor, and Katherine, Andre’s mother, whose rage has not lessened in the two decades since her son’s burial, played by Elizabeth Ruddell.

“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,” LaMonte said.

This play ran on Broadway, in Philadelphia, Boston, Argentina and Columbus, Ohio, in these much larger cities. Basile Westfield Playhouse is now taking a chance that people will enjoy the play just as much in our theater community.

Is the play family friendly?

“I would say the play is rated PG-13. There is some profanity, and if the subject of two gay men married with a child should offend theater goers in this day and age, then this isn’t the play for them,” he said.

LaMonte lives on the near northside of Indianapolis and is also an administrator for the Marion County Recorder’s Office. This is his first production at Westfield, although he has been directing for nearly 25 years.

The director’s most-recent production “Good People,” by David Lindsay-Abaire at Buck Creek Players last February, was among the nominations for Best Production of a Drama and Best Director of a Drama (LaMonte was the nominee), as well as 13 other nominations from the Encore Association’s 53rd annual Encore Awards Ceremony on Monday at The Toby Theatre at The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. (While the play didn’t win for either of the two direct or producer categories, “Good People” did earn Molly Bellner an Encore Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama.)

Miller offered this additional explanation that was archived in the Main Street Productions secretary’s board minutes: “Main Street Productions is committed to producing shows that involve, reflect and nourish the community it serves. Some of these shows warrant special attention and consideration: stores from underserved voices, productions that are more controversial or daring, shows by local playwrights, or stories that warrant special attention due to subject matter or language. We call these shows “Artist’s Choice … Artist’s Choice shows may not be for everyone but they are for someone. If you’re looking for something different on the stage, join us for Artist’s Choice.”

Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com

Want TO GO?

What: Main Street Productions presents the drama, “Mothers & Sons,” by Terrence McNally, in the second show of the 2022-23 theater season, directed by Jim LaMonte.
When: Nov. 10-20, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Where: Basile Westfield Playhouse, 220 N. Union St., Westfield.
How much: $17 for adults, $15 for ages 17 and younger (with identification) and 62 and older, free to active military and veterans with identification.
Reservations required: Call (317) 402-3341 or visit westfieldplayhouse.org