Motherson and Relative Comfort | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Motherson and Relative Comfort 

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MOTHERSON, Bailiwick Repertory, and RELATIVE COMFORT, Bailiwick Repertory. By now many concur that sexual orientation is not a choice. Still, homosexuals acknowledging their nature to family and friends often face fear and confusion. Playwrights Jeffrey Solomon and Gina Schien explore the dynamics of coming out in these Pride 2000 productions.

"Bradley, this is your mother calling." So begins Solomon's MotherSon, a one-man show retracing through phone conversations the real-life steps of his disclosure and post-outing relationship with his vibrant, lovingly domineering mother. Subtly varying his inflections and gestures, Solomon plays both characters, always to hilarious effect. Every gay person should have a mother like Mindy Levy. Her devotion is unquestionable even as she goes through denial, self-blame ("I must have pissed off God but good!"), anger, and acceptance. Equally moving is her transformation from housewife grieving the loss of unborn grandchildren to passionate, motherly activist.

Solomon's efficient storytelling--he extracts and presents the essence of each situation--helps him cover years of activity without getting bogged down in detail or leaving out anything important. Also, instead of indulging in campy, trite Jewish motherisms, he trusts his story's intrinsic poignant humor to reveal itself. As both writer and actor, Solomon displays the rare gift of knowing how much is enough.

Gina Schien could stand to cultivate that discernment to mitigate the chaos that is Relative Comfort. A daughter comes out to her father. A father comes out to his daughter. Is Auntie Lorna in or out? Add an unavenged crime and a loving/hating ex-girlfriend and the result is a rambling cacophony, maddening because the potential for drama is there.

Cat (Chavez Ravine in an enthralling multilayered performance) and Sally (Roxanne Saylor) share a peaceful romance until Cat's obsessive poet ex-lover Jackie (Carolina Jimenez) seeks a meeting with Sally's publisher father and makes other inroads into the couple's life. Complicating matters are Cat's childhood demons and Sally's "closet door." Schien's triangle of complex characters is capable of propelling this story wherever it needs to go. However, she and director J. Kingsford Goode should have dealt with the script's stilted, meandering dialogue and logical disconnects and the production's awkward blocking. This is one coming out that's about two drafts premature. --Kim Wilson

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