First Look: ‘Sons & Lovers’ at Buffalo United Artists

Caitlin Coleman stars in ‘Sons and Lovers’ at Buffalo United Artists.

Relationships are so….complicated. First comes attraction, then flirtation, then that delicious push-pull of anticipation, and then you find out …there’s competition. Yikes. And when your paramour has other things going on, well, it’s no picnic. All this and more is central to the plot of “Sons & Lovers,” Buffalo United Artist’s first show of this season. Written by Buffalo’s own bard Donna Hoke, this comedy (yes, comedy) follows a family, new love, revelations, and whole 21st century way of putting it out there.

“Sons & Lovers” began as a staged reading of a 10-minute play three years ago for a curated series of short works that examined LGBT experiences, according to playwright Hoke. Local actor Caitlin Coleman was in the initial cast. “My writing voice was a good fit for Caitlin’s acting voice,” says Hoke, “so I was asked to create a full-length version.”

There are pluses and minuses to working with a concept that already had its 10-minute version on stage. Hoke says, “The tone was already established, and the characters were developed, and their comedic voices were already established” which is a significant part of playwriting. She continues, “But comedy is hard. All of my plays have a comedic element, but maintaining that level throughout is hard. This is tone of the only pure comedies that I’ve written.”

As an actor, Coleman is honored to have a full-length production written with her best attributes in mind, but she feels the pressure, too. She says, “Being the impetus and having the artistic director saying he wants a full length version is significant. I feel so lucky. I want to Live up to that expectation, and do right by Donna’s words. It means the world to me that people who I admire so much have that much faith in me.”

Coleman was drawn to her character Ellen through Hoke’s writing. She says, “Ellen – the character – is a very sweet woman who spent her adult life married to one man, raising one child, and being focused on them. She lost sight on how to take care of herself and what she needs. This story helps her figure out a lot of stuff.”

In what could be a smarmy set up or a predictable plot, Hoke’s writing elevates the story, and for Coleman, this smart, centered writing makes the difference. She says, “Donna’s writing has a certain facility, a clarity. The facility allows you to perform it effortlessly. As I’m learning the lines and going off book, so much of what she writes is intuitive, I know exactly what I’m saying. It makes sense.”

“Sons & Lovers” opens September 15, and while Coleman is the only hold-over from the original cast, the production is taking its own new shape. “We’re at that funny stage before we add tech and costumes, and we’re all really enjoying the process.” And she’s optimistic about the audience reaction, saying, “The audience will enjoy it and be quite touched by the relationships in this show. It’s a different kind of coming out story for the BUA audience.”

Hoke credits the current cast for giving the show its liveliness. “It’s hard to write a successful comedy,” she says. “Throughout rehearsals, the script may evolve,” she comments, and giving full credit to Steve Brachmann, David Granville, and A. Peter Snodgrass in the cast and director Todd Fuller. “Comedy – more than anything else – is collaborative.”

Click here for tickets and details.

Promotional consideration paid for by the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo.