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My Mother's a Baby Boy
By Nicole Bergot
Chris Burns is a man of many talents. He's already gained recognition for his recreation of the acclaimed radio play War of the Worlds for Amnesty International and K-Rock Radio in LA. He's also a respected massage therapist. In his first full-length play, now being given a limited run world premiere at the tiny Kraine Theater in the East Village, he daringly dons three hats: Playwright, director and actor. Without elaborate set, in fact, just a few chairs, he succeeds on all counts.
My Mother's Baby Boy is a tight, clever script that looks at the incongruencies of human relationships, how we merely graze their surface and seldom penetrate tough veneers in order to experience rich and real human contact.
The play unfolds through a series of vignettes all of which show games and empty conversation taking precedence over honest interchanges. The play begins with this common dynamic of missed opportunities to communicate taken to the extreme as a young woman is in the spotlight aiming a gun towards a bound and gagged man as she demands "Why didn't you call me back?" A humorous interlude for anyone who has been on the receiving end of a silent phone, feeling the angst and indignation of falling hostage to a lopsided relationship.
In between Seinfeldesque ponderings about where we would be if the Pilgrims were Buddhists or the implications of Jesus not being a coffee drinker, we have five scenarios. These explore a variety of human connection and demonstrate how language and words get in the way of meaning and substance, with rehearsed verbal agility acting as a deterrent to heart-to-heart exchanges.
Burns is especially good as a man so painfully self-analytical and caught up in his inability to communicate that he can't listen to others. Helen Coxe is excellent as his techno- charged dinner companion, Claire. She is strapped to every communications device available and obsessively wrapped up in what Marshal McLuhan would observe as the precedence of the medium of communication over the message. When, Ben, unable to compete with her vibrating cell phone and beeping pager, calls her "Thomas Edison's whore" she encourages him, while on hold, to accept how things are, to give in and accept that we “don’t have contro.
Annie Meiseles convincingly portrays a bitter daughter who tells us that she loves her mother but that she just doesn't know her. There's also a humorous scene between two moviegoers -- David Haugen as a gay male who is going through a break-up endures advice from Jane Casserly playing his straight girl friend. He accepts the end of the affair but she, obviously projecting her own bitterness about painful past relationships, encourages revenge on the evil Ex. Underneath the humor is a clear lesson about how we often get so wrapped up in our own stories that everyone becomes a walking projection screen of our own lives. Since we are unable to hear and empathize with others. Nobody pays attention to anyone more tha themselves themselves.
Interspersed with these comic yet meaningfully engaging scenes, Burns also offers some examples of true communication possibly taking place. For example, you can't help but like Tim McGee as the pathetic man at a busy intersection who attempts to engage a rushed man in a simple conversation. . Baylen Thomas, who plays that man, is at first weary and suspicious and wants nothing to do with the stranger on the corner. But as the play moves forward the other characters evolve and become less preoccupied with their own inner dialogues and more willing to look out and to listen to the value of what the human in front of them might have to say. These changes illustrate that it's not the man on the street corner who is pathetic, but rather our own rushing to avoid human contact.
As the characters soften they allow their impulses rather than past experience to dictate their actions. Ben grabs Claire and kisses her, the first of many spontaneously followed impulses. Fast talking Mathilda identifies “silence as the violence” which leads to misguided blame and isolation. As , Burn’s makes clear, it’s not the lack of words that are at the crux of our present failure to communicate but that we speak those words without really delivering honest and personal accounts of our own truth.
Without fancy production values (note the lack of set, costume and other designing credits), Chris Burns' clever script and the actors on stage deliver a thought provoking and entertaining night of theatere At $15 a ticket, they also provide a theatrical best buy.