David Edgar's Mothers Against is one part of a two-play cycle under the collective title Continental Divide, set against the background of a bitterly fought American governor’s election in an unspecified Pacific-coast state. Mothers Against examines the Republican campaign, while the other part, Daughters of the Revolution, looks at the same election from the Democrat perspective.
Across the two plays, Edgar explores what has happened to the revolutionary fervour that took hold of both the Right and the Left in the 1960s, and how it has been carried over into the politics of the twenty-first century.
Both plays were jointly commissioned and produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Mothers Against was first performed in The New Theatre, Ashland, Oregon, as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on 1 March 2003 before transferring to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, with performances from 6 November 2003.
Mothers Against takes the form of an intense chamber play as Republican candidate Sheldon Vine prepares at home for a vital televised debate in a gubernatorial race once thought a lost cause for the Republicans, but which is turning into a contest that is too close to call. Ironically, fiscal conservative Sheldon Vine's jump in the polls arises from voter ignorance of his true, relatively liberal position on two interconnected hot-button issues: the shooting of an eco-terrorist by a Latino security guard and 'Proposition 92'. The latter is a loyalty oath that would make it illegal for registered voters to support a group that pursues its ends through force. However, securing the necessary votes to win the election exposes ideological rifts in the campaign team. His handlers struggle to position the candidate on these matters while maintaining his approval ratings, trying as much as they can not to betray the candidate's beliefs. Edgar injects dynastic struggles into this mix as Sheldon's campaign manager and older brother, Mitchell, is resentful of being passed over for the candidacy because of his seeming mismanagement of the family fortune, while Sheldon's daughter, Deborah, may know more than she reveals about the slain eco-terrorist.
The premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival was directed by Tony Taccone and designed by William Bloodgood, with a cast including Bill Geisslinger as Sheldon Vine.
The play received its UK premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 6 March 2004, with the original American cast directed by Tony Taccone. It subsequently played at the Barbican, London, as part of their BITE Festival, with performances from 20 March 2004.