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Mother’Son

Though the piece is sprinkled with unexpected humor, it is not exactly an enjoyable experience. It is, however, hard to shake. Barry's imagery may be blunt -- having Mom wave a cucumber at her son during an argument isn't exactly subtle -- but it strikes some very delicate nerves.

With:
Son ... Raymond J. Barry Mother ... Judy Jean Berns Woman ... Kim O'Kelley Any man who has unfinished emotional business with his mother -- that is, most any man -- will find Raymond J. Barry's new play "Mother'Son" a decidedly unsettling experience. This brief, surrealistic one-act explores a grown man's conflicting feelings about his domineering mother with an intensity that borders on savagery.

Though the piece is sprinkled with unexpected humor, it is not exactly an enjoyable experience. It is, however, hard to shake. Barry’s imagery may be blunt — having Mom wave a cucumber at her son during an argument isn’t exactly subtle — but it strikes some very delicate nerves.

This 75-minute piece begins with the Son, who is portrayed by playwright Barry, sitting alone in what appears to be a padded cell. (Designer Yael Pardess’ set helps suggest the Son has been institutionalized, and this is all happening in his imagination.) He rants and raves for a while about his inability to find a job, or even leave the house, for that matter.

Suddenly Mom enters the room, complete with fresh vegetables and a cutting board. The two of them begin to argue; as they do so, she proceeds to make him a salad, thereby fulfilling her role as nurturer.

The Son, meanwhile, veers back and forth between compliant little boy and rage-filled adult. His anger and confusion intensify when his ex-wife literally bursts in.

The Son’s dilemma — his inability to separate from his mother, and the paralysis this causes — will be familiar to anyone who has read Robert Bly, the primary poet of male anger. But while Bly is ultimately hopeful, Barry finds only bleakness.

The play could use some fleshing out — the role of the ex-wife is sketchy — but it makes an impact, and director David Saint’s production is superb. The actors — who often find themselves in shouting matches full of tongue-twisting dialogue — display consistently expert timing.

Like Sam Shepard, whose writing his suggests, Barry is an actor as well as playwright, and his performance here is quite harrowing. Watching him transform from meek child to monstrous man in a flash is frightening.

Mother'Son

(MET Theatre, Hollywood; 99 seats; $ 15 top)

Production: The MET Theatre presents a play in one act by Raymond J. Barry; director, David Saint; producers, Holly Hunter, Jasper Collins.

Creative: Sets, Yael Pardess; lighting, Rand Ryan. Opened March 11 , 1994; reviewed March 13; runs through April 17.

Cast: Son ... Raymond J. Barry Mother ... Judy Jean Berns Woman ... Kim O'Kelley Any man who has unfinished emotional business with his mother -- that is, most any man -- will find Raymond J. Barry's new play "Mother'Son" a decidedly unsettling experience. This brief, surrealistic one-act explores a grown man's conflicting feelings about his domineering mother with an intensity that borders on savagery.

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