McNally Andre’s Mother
Even coming from a Catholic background, Terrence McNally, a gay playwright, never felt that being a homosexual was wrong. He quotes, “It seemed very natural to me. I think something as natural as sexual attraction is not to be fought.” He goes on to say that he defined God on his own terms and that the one message he got from being in Catholic school was that we are all created equally in God’s image, therefore, he was going to be okay (Shulman). In 1988, McNally became one of the first writers to confront homosexuality in his short play titled Andre’s Mother.
Later, in 1997, he wrote “Corpus Christi,” which altered the story of Jesus Christ in a gay setting. This created controversy among the conservative, religious crowd but he did not give up there (Fulton). He went on to make a lasting impact on the lives of some people, making his plays become successful and highly populated in attendance. McNally treats the play Andre’s Mother in a shockingly ordinary manner in order to normalize the subject of homosexuality given the time period in which it was written. Andre’s Mother is a short play portraying the hardships that come with suffering from the death of a loved one.
Most people are familiar with the 5 stage process of dealing with a death—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Axelrod). This process takes place no matter whom it was that died, whether it be a family member, friend, mutual friend, or significant other. Small details such as age, race, or sexual orientation would not affect the progression because it is a universal process. In this short play, Andre, who recently passed, was gay, and Cal, Andre’s lover, must cope with this major loss. McNally chooses to deal with homosexuality in the circumstance of a death because it is a relatable feeling of numbness.
Both Arthur and Penny seemingly have very little to do with the play. However, they actually play essential roles in McNally’s representation of his personal view on homosexuality. Arthur and Penny both come from Cal’s side of the relationship, Arthur being Cal’s father and Penny his sister. Both relatives know about Cal’s relationship and are exceptionally accepting. McNally intentionally puts them into the play for that reason. He shows that regardless of the time period that this play was written in, there are still going to be understanding people. “In my clumsy way, I’m trying to say how much I liked Andre. And how much he helped me to know my own boy.
Cal was always two hands full but Andre and I could talk about anything under the sun. My wife was very fond of him, too” (McNally 967). This is Arthur voicing his internal thoughts. It adds a lot to the play by showing that Cal’s father not only accepts his son’s relationship, but is also happy for him that he can be happy truly being himself. Penny likewise makes it obvious that she accepts her brother’s relationship when she says, “God forgive me for wishing you were straight every time I laid eyes on you. But if any man was going to have you, I’m glad it was my brother!” (McNally 968).
She is surely expressing her approval of Andre but more importantly, McNally added this line in for a bit of comic relief. Homosexuality is a controversial topic, but by putting this in there, McNally is trying to make light of the issue by making a joke. Andre’s Mother was written in the 1900’s, a time when homosexuality was still a disgrace to many people. The fact that McNally chose to address Andre and Cal’s relationship was a questionable and unpopular thought at first. Especially since he went into such major detail with it, having Cal speak to Andre’s mother about how important Andre was to him.
Since this play was intended for a big audience, it confirms that McNally was trying to spread his perspective on homosexuality. Him being gay, gives him emotional ties to the subject matter that he intends and wishes to extend to the general population of people. Although the play deals with AIDS, a commonly associated disease with gay people, the main theme of the play has nothing to do with AIDS. In fact it has everything to do with the acceptance of a person and the happiness that comes with realizing that the person is not afraid of being who he/she is. Andre’s mother was never give a name throughout the play. McNally purposefully did so to emphasize her feelings toward the death of her son.
Andre never told his mother about Cal out of fear that he would not be accepted by her. The end of the play shows that Andre’s mother comes to a realization that being gay doesn’t change anything about a person. This helps McNally’s point that a gay person is still a person, and more importantly, a vulnerable person who doesn’t deserve what they have to go through because they cannot change who they are. Due to the nature of McNally’s past and the manner in which Andre’s Mother was written, it is clear that he is attempting to ignore the wide spread controversy that is associated with the theme of homosexuality. He does this by taking a risk
and performing a play that it is not socially acceptable to do so.
It shows a lot about McNally’s character because he is not afraid to be different and promote something that could potentially cause him to lose many viewers. And he did an extraordinary job in doing so because he became a very successful playwright and was even praised for his bravery (“Terrence McNally”). By recognizing McNally’s character choice and the fact that this was written in the late 1900’s when homosexuality was not viewed as acceptable, it is tangible to say that McNally was trying to normalize the subject of homosexuality in his play, Andre’s Mother.