No one comes out alone. The tag line for a thrilling solo work that is taking to the stage at Baltimore Theatre Project for just four short engagements! MotherSON, an innovative solo work written and performed by Jeffrey Solomon, is making its Baltimore debut at the Preston Street stage. A show 16 years in the making— first performed in 1998— it has received a great deal of recognition for its subject matter and motivational message laid right into the plot and themes of the show. Solomon’s story follows the journey of a stereotypical Jewish mother as she progresses from deep embarrassment and disappointment over learning that her son is gay to a fully supporting, loving gay-right activist. The story is touching, heart-breaking, and exceptionally well penned.
Solomon’s poignant work is nothing short of ingenious, and particularly fascinating for two reasons. The first being that the playwright plays not only the son character, Brad Levi, but also the mother, Mindy. In taking on the duality of these roles there are elements layered into the subtext of how all children inevitably become their parents; a subtle reminder that we aren’t that different. This theme is reinforced late in the performance when Mindy’s character struggles to bring her own life-altering secret to the table with her son right away for fear of how he will react.
The other thing that makes Solomon’s work so noteworthy is that it is showcasing the mother’s perspective. All too often in “coming-out” stories the focus is one-sided, only revealing to the audience how the child is affected by the process. Getting to see and hear the reactions of Mindy along her journey is a stunning concept that draws the audience into the world of acceptance even further.
Solomon handles the play in a series of mostly phone conversations. At times having the recording of either Mindy or Brad— depending on who he is actively playing on the stage in the moment— playing in the background to make the conversation live feels a bit contrived. There are plenty of moments when the audience sees only one side of the argument or conversation— Solomon as either Brad or Mindy talking or screaming into the phone leaving the audience to suspend their disbelief and follow along based on contextual clues. These moments read with far more strength than those where you can hear both sides of the conversation as they unfold.
Given the dichotomy of the roles, Solomon finds a brilliant juxtaposition between the two characters, making them drastically different while simultaneously finding their common threads and weaving them together throughout the story. His stage presence is remarkable; the ability to create the notion of others through his responsive and reactive gestures and facial expressions allows the imagination to fill the absence of actual others upon the stage.
The story is moving; a true emotional roller coaster of life. There are happy moments, as well as sad ones, with a plethora of feelings thrown into the mixture all throughout. The reality of all of these experiences, whether they are Brad’s or Mindy’s is striking and highly relatable to anyone who has ever found themselves experience life in this way. The message of unyielding love, to the point of comparing Brad’s mother to the woman that scared away G*d, is a powerful one.
The work moves well upon the stage, Solomon keeps the audiences’ attention throughout the performance, even during the quirkier moments like when Mindy experiences her first gay bar. The writing is sharp and funny as well as emotionally weighted and serious; the perfect hybrid of life coming to fruition in this work.
It is unfortunate that the show has so few performances here in Baltimore, to be sure to get your tickets quickly as this lively, engaging work is likely to sell out quickly and this is an evocative that you will not want to miss. Solomon hits it on the head with one of the funniest and yet truest lines in the show— “Yes, mom, you can be gay and happy at the same time, that’s why they call it gay.”
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes no intermission