Mother/Son at Ovalhouse

Review written for Spoonfed, London Theatre May 2010. One of the best plays I’ve ever seen.

Jeffrey Solomon’s mother Emily died in 1994. She liked playing cards and watching the shopping channel and wanted the world to know she loved her gay son. Solomon’s one man show Mother/Son currently playng at Oval House Theatre, is a funny, moving portrayal of a man’s relationship with his mother and what he affectionately calls “the coming out journey” for both of them. Playing both parts, he has captured their highly entertaining and entirely familiar way of communicating.

From Long Island, the eternally loving, overbearing Mindy calls her son daily (and nightly), leaves streams of voicemail messages, tries to set him up on dates, offers tips on the latest QVC gadget, and requests every ounce of detail about his life. Few people are without a version of Mindy in their lives. Miles away from home in LA, scriptwriter Brad doesn’t have much to say until he finally tells his mother he’s gay and launches himself into the life he’s been waiting to live. Soloman’s play offers his audience a balanced view of both Brad’s frustration at Mindy’s slow speed to catch up with his newfound confidence about his place in society and her anxiety over her son’s news.

Solomon shares with his audience Mindy’s earnest and hilarious concerns. He charts her journey from a somewhat clueless middle-American mother convinced her son is going through a phase, to a ballsy pride participant who enjoys a brief ride with Dykes on Bikes, before she becomes a fully fledged gay rights activist.

The play is not strictly autobiographical, though what’s clear is that where the events are fictional, the feelings are not. Among the frequent humour is the gentle message that any parent may one day be faced with a time when their child is the “minority du jour” and for that reason, Mindy’s journey transcends the generations.

Solomon is undoubtedly a talented performer who has been treating audiences to Mother/Son for over ten years. Being so versed in the subject matter is obviously to his advantage and clearly demonstrated when he recreates the funny telephone conversations, the loving arguments and the exasperated explanations that pass between him and his mother time and time again. But it also takes genuine skill to evoke real emotion with such familiar material and bring such warmth to a demanding, brilliantly paced performance.

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