As a physician, Hal Cohen sees people in all kinds of circumstances, including despair. It’s often from that perspective that he writes his plays.
His latest, “Harry Jameson,” presented by Pie Man Theatre Company, is about the abuse of power by those who prey on vulnerable people. The idea stemmed from a case during the early days of his career when Cohen worked as a pediatrician and was called to testify in a court case against a father accused of abusing his own children.
“What struck me was the coldness, the soullessness, that was required of this man to do this,” Cohen said. “Ever since, whenever I see someone who abuses, I always question what happened to them that led them to become abusers. People who abuse often, but not always, were they themselves abused.”
“Harry Jameson” is about what happens when the abused get an opportunity for revenge – or justice, depending on one’s perspective – against their abuser. Cohen asks, “What would you do? What are you capable of? Would everybody do the same thing?” The story begins with Harry Jameson’s nightmare of memories and evolves as Harry overhears a discussion about a local child abuser and the plot to make him pay.
Stephanie Ross directs the play, which opens Thursday and continues through May 20 at Mayo Street Arts in Portland. “Harry Jameson” is the final show of the season for the Pie Man, which focuses its efforts on producing new plays and re-staging classics.
In a twist, Cohen was thrust into an acting role for “Harry Jameson” late in the rehearsal process. He plays the bad guy, a role that chills him as he channels the creepy people he’s encountered in his professional life. “This is a tough one. It’s hard to sleep at night with this one,” Cohen said. “His monologue keeps me up.”
WHERE: Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland
WHEN: Preview at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, runs through May 20 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20, pay what you can for all Wednesday performances
INFO: 619-4885, piemantheatre.org