KOSOVO THEATRE REVIEWS
Reviewed by Mirela Gracanac
Who is our son?
Imagine that you have a close family member whose sexual orientation you cannot understand, that you cannot find a way to deal with or to accept. The play Our Son shows how this problem is (not) solved.
Our Son is about a family that suffers from the excessive influence of social constructs, especially common the Balkans. It is the story of a gay son who finds and accepts himself, but his parents struggle to do the same. The play's author Patrik Lazić brings many autobiographical elements into the story,
Entering the space where the performance will take place, I get the impression that there is no stage to represent a limited space for the realization of the story. In front of me I see furniture, dishes on the table, TV. It is as if I stepped out of my own and into someone else's home, with a completely similar living room. Before the beginning and during the performance, the actors - Dragana Varagić, Aleksandar Đinđić and Amar Ćorović - sit in the audience, which makes the atmosphere extremely intimate. The consequence of the removal of barriers between the stage and those who are observers of the events on it is the direct interaction with the audience - the audience becomes not only someone who learns about the family's past, but also someone who relives it together with the actors.
The play begins with a scene between the father and the mother in which they discuss the problem they have and their attempt to solve that problem. Lunch is ready and waiting, but are mother and father ready to welcome their son?
The emotional chaos that prevails on the stage before he arrives and the vicissitudes that arise when he arrives, culminate in a conflict that becomes intractable judging by the play's ending.
This early part, without the son on stage, is built on the template of a failed couple from the Balkans. While the mother is sick and awaiting surgery, the father is going through a mid-life crisis with a younger wife, dying his hair and wearing a youthful wardrobe inappropriate for his age. The parents do not understand each other, and this rift between them does not allow them to understand their son. They try to find the to the question of why he is the way he is through trivial literature from the field of popular psychology, in a book which says that homosexuality is a disease and a disorder that can be cured. That the mother and father lack the power to understand each other is captured in a single moment: they are arguing, but they are not facing each other.
The son returns from abroad. The mother and father believe that they have managed to find ways to make him into the son they want and to resolve all the disagreements that arose in the past. What we actually see following the son's appearance on stage is his ironic playing with their superficial attempts to approach him.
The book by Richard Cohen that was supposed to help them to solve their "problem" becomes the son's tool for confronting his parents with the reality that they should accept.
It is interesting that in the past they reacted completely different to the uniqueness and differences in their son's behaviour, for example, while the father resented his wish to wear women's clothes sometimes, the mother did not see anything wrong in it. In the end, however, they find themselves in the same position: they want to heal their son, not simply love him. One of the ways they refuse to accept their son is that they don't want to call his partner Nikola by his name, instead they stay in their comfort zone in which Nikola is just their son's roommate.
The performance is meta-theatrical, and the actors themselves hint at it: at one point, Dragana Varagić, as the mother, even says that she will not play in it anymore. It seems to me that with this device the director is referring to the parents' conviction that they are in a situation they cannot control, a situation in which they are puppets in the story. Two things are emphasized by this: the parents do not want to accept their son and his choices, and yet he is not a victim in this situation because he has managed to accept himself and live his life exactly the way he wants.
The attitude that the parents and the son take during the play changes according to the development of the story. Although the parents initially have the impression that they have the situation under control and that the plans they have for their son will succeed, with his appearance on the scene, he slowly takes control. With the emotional pressure they experience, they fail to keep a calm tone: the mother screams because she was never a good enough wife and because she was perhaps too good a mother, the son knocks over the salad bowl not because he is losing control of his behaviour but because he wants to interrupt their absurd arguments and show them precisely that control is in his hands. What is clear is the father's position in this situation: the greater condemnation from the son belongs to him.
The main defence mechanism becomes humour with which he tries to overcome mistakes from the past, as well as those he is making now. While the mother and father use humour to avoid accepting the truth, the son uses it to bring the truth to the surface, with a lot of irony and sarcasm.
What cannot be overlooked is that the son is actually the one in control of the whole situation. At the very beginning of the play, before the beginning of the dialogue, he turns on the lights aimed at the stage, and at the very end turns them off. Reminiscences of the past become a play by itself directed by the son, like Shakespeare's plays within a play, in which the audience gets the roles assigned to them by the son and relives the painful past of this family.
At the very end, something like a twist happens, but not in the true sense of the word. Then it only becomes clear to us that everything they talked aboutit had the function of showing the parents who their son is. He lied to them that Nikola came with him from America, but they only found out after they resolutely refused to receive him in the house. With this, the emotional gap between parent and son becomes unbridgeable - he leaves them broken because they have fallen into the trap of their own delusion, and he leaves satisfied that he managed to make a breakthrough in their understanding, but with a bitter taste in his mouth because it had to be done that way.
Produced b: Heartefact Fund//Written and directed by: Patrik Lazić // With: Dragana Varagić, Aleksandar Đinđić, Amar Ćorović