Andre's Mother

By: Terrence McNally

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTJwDu2lZmrc4msQ8KNSHbx9kgYduRxpFAi9oAnYhZs5yrRSUQwngThis is a play written by Terrence McNally. It is the story of a group of people and how they react to the death of one of their friends. At the beginning they are all standing in a group with a white balloon tied to a string. The audience later realizes that the balloons represent the soul of Andre (the deceased friend) and when they let the balloon go they are letting Andre's soul ascend to Heaven. The main character Cal has a tough time letting go of his lover (yes this play is about homosexual love), but his sister, Penny, and his father, Arthur, have almost no problem letting him their balloons go. Cal takes time to reflect back on his times with Andre and he begins to talk about the relationship that Andre had with his mother, who is standing right beside Cal, not saying a word. He explains how terrible their relationship was and he explained how Andre's mother disapproved of Andre for his homosexuality. Finally Cal let's go of his lover and walks away, leaving Andre's mother standing there alone. She is very sad as she starts to reflect on what Cal just said and she is on the verge of breaking down. She almost lets go of the balloon, but she quickly brings it back down, kisses it, accepting Andre for who he was, and lets it slowly rise into the sky, watching it the entire way.

Cal stresses Andre's love of playing the part of Hamlet many times throughout the play, this represents his own personal struggle and character. Hamlet struggled with whether or not to avenge his father's death, to face what he has seemingly been avoiding, and, in some ways, this is similar to what Andre faced. Andre was stuck and did not know what to do. He could tell his mother and possibly lose her respect and approval or keep who he really was a secret, kind of like Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be, or not to be: that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles..."

ballons-25.gifThe symbolism of the white balloons is explained in the text by Cal, "They represent the soul. When you let go, it means you're letting his soul ascend to Heaven." However, they also symbolize purity and a blank slate. Considering the time period in which this was written, the idea of homosexuals being anything except impure is extraordinary, therefore, Terrence McNally would want to challenge that social norm by portraying a homosexual as being pure -- via the white balloons. It is revealed that Cal has not been very liked by Andre's mother, but, he is trying to create some sort of a relationship with her, even though he knows that she does not like him. In this sense, Cal is offering her a clean slate, a new start, a chance to become friends.

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Cal: Andre's lover. He talks to Andre's mother about his and Andre's relationship. He is the main speaker in the play and could be considered the main character.
Andre: Cal's lover. He dies from AIDS. He is not present in the play, but his memory is what the play is about.
Penny: Andre's sister
Arthur: Andre's father
Andre's Mother: does not like Cal and has a hard time letting her balloon go. At the end, she accepts her son for the way he is.

The ongoing theme throughout the play, "Andre's Mother" by Terrence McNally, is the process of grieving and the different ways people cope with death and letting go of a loved one. Every individual deals with death in their own unique way, usually depending on the relationship
external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTj1k79phc2jD4s2FmkLCMRqXB-Aiz7Ea72l9MuhyetPPUuk5LeLwhad with the deceased. This idea is exemplified through the characters in the play. Andre's acquaintances, Penny and Arthur, experience little difficulty letting their balloon go because they were simply at the vigil to provide support for Andre's mother and Cal. These two, on the contrary, have a very difficult time letting go of their balloon. Cal, Andre's lover, had a relationship with Andre that he was not willing to give up when he released his balloon. Somehow Cal finds it within himself to release his balloon and some of the grief he is feeling for his loss. After Cal releases his balloon, he Andre's mother to release hers into the sky. Andre's mother has a very difficult time letting go. She is obviously not ready to let go of her grief and pain. As a mother, she will never get over the loss of her son, making releasing the balloon nearly impossible. She kisses the balloon and watches it slowly ascend until she can no longer see it in the sky. The time it took her to release her balloon and the time she spent watching it, shows that she was not ready to let Andre go and she will hold onto her grief for possibly the rest of her life.

Author Biography

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQi6LS7cfVHhEiSWvKV1fPUl-kKHzlzW2tE0cI9RRBsOnf4vYjxzA McNally was born in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1939. He later moved to Corpus Christi, Texas where he was brought up. After graduation from Columbia University, McNally moved to Mexico to pursue his writing career. The first one-act play that he wrote we turned down by the Actors Studio in New York, but they were so impressed by his script that they asked him to serve as their stage manager. After a couple of years of stage managing he began writing plays. At first his plays were not good and he even asked that his name be removed from his first major piece because it was so bad. But as the years went on his writing got better and better, skyrocketing him to fame. He won many awards for his plays including an Emmy for "Andre's Mother". In 1997 he stirred up controversy by writing "Corpus Christi", a retelling of the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ in which he and all of his disciples are homosexual. He continues to write plays to this day.

Here is a group of students performing "Andre's Mother"...I'm not promising that it's good.


McNally, Terrence. "Andre's Mother." Literature for Composition. Barnett. Longman, 2011. Print.

"Terrence McNally." N.p., 2002. Web. 4 Feb 2011.

Shakespeare, William. "Hamlet's Soliloquy." Wowzone. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Feb 2011.