Foreclosure or Yelling at Women Walking Their Dogs
Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Greenway Court Theater
Through May 28
What happens to a working-class alpha male when he loses his work? The consequences of such are on brilliant display in playwright/performer Raymond J. Barry’s Foreclosure or Yelling at Women Walking Their Dogs, a taut penetrating one-act that rivets around a fractured American family and the never-ending battle between philistinism and art.
The white-haired, ruddy-complexioned and still physically imposing Barry depicts 75 year-old Hubert, a retired bricklayer who suffers the anger and angst that springs from too much idleness. He wreaks his frustrations on his wife Mildred (Judy Jean Berns), a pleasant soft-spoken person with fossilized ideas of her own. Despite Mildred’s gentility, she’s more than a match for her cantankerous spouse; besides, their tempestuous bickering usually segues to impassioned declarations of affection, and extended periods where they relax and recoup before their next clamorous quarrel.
Whereas Hubert clearly loves his wife, his feelings for his grown son Herman (Joseph Culp) are a lot more ambivalent. Herman is a visual artist, an occupation for which Hubert, who espouses a puritanical notion of work, has only contempt. Even when Herman announces that a recent exhibit of his work has sold out, and that he’s now in a position to help his parents financially, he’s belittled by his father, who refuses to believe that such a thing is possible.
The drama’s critical event is Mildred’s announcement that the bank will be foreclosing on their house, a happening that broadens the play’s concerns beyond a psychological character study and a consideration of the value of art to include a critical awareness of bankers and their home-owning prey. It bears mention that everyone in the household is paranoid that “someone” is watching. This is indeed a very American work.
The performances, under David Robinson’s direction, are uniformly excellent. As Mildred and Hubert, Berns and Barry might have been torn from the canvas of American Gothic; alternatively, Barry, given his pusillanimous stance, might flourish on the pages of a Studs Terkel essay. Both he and Culp invest their characters with a unique physicality that — along with the play’s rhythms and clipped dialogue — contribute to its edginess.
No lighting designer is mentioned so I’ll credit technical director Charles Constantine for the production’s calibrated polish. Several impressive paintings, the work of the playwright, are displayed on the set.
Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Thurs., May 26, 8 p.m.; through May 28. (323) 655-7679, Ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Running time: 65 minutes with no intermission