BWW Review: HIR Is A Darkly Funny And Passionately Angry Take On A Family In Crisis
HIR is a socially-constructed, gender-neutral, politically-correct pronoun unofficially used in place of him/her or his/her. It is also an extremely dark and angry comedy by Obie Award winning artist and playwright Taylor Mac that made the New York Time's Top Ten Best Theater of 2015 list, about a housewife dealing with a daughter who is transgender, a son returning home after three years in Afghanistan, and a formerly abusive husband who has experienced a stroke that has rendered him nearly speechless. Think of it as Jules Feiffer on LSD wearing a stunning pair of Louboutins and you're getting closer to the neighborhood this play resides in. HIR makes Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Long Day's Journey into Night seem like quaint fifties family dramas.
When Isaac (Nate Jackson) returns to his childhood home upon his dishonorable discharge from the war in Afghanistan he promptly discovers that his whole family has been transformed. His formerly timid mother, Paige (Roxy Becker), is now doing everything in her power to subvert both patriarchy and the norms of life under her abusive husband, Arnold (Jay Byrd). His sister, Max (Dillon Yruegas), is now a trans male anarchist who uses the pronouns "ze" and "hir". As a means of revenge, Paige has put his formerly abusive father, the victim of a stroke, in clown makeup and nightgowns and feeds him estrogen pills.
Obie Award-winner Taylor Mac's comedic tragedy HIR flips traditional gender power dynamics on their head in this regional premiere production, directed by Delanté G. Keys. Mac himself has described this work as a new theatrical form: "absurd realism." This is a rough, hard look at one of the most dysfunctional families ever to be put on stage. Adultery, sexual abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism... there's all of this and more at work in this angry and demented take on the traditional kitchen-sink drama. At the core is the question: does destroying your past actually free you from it?
Delanté G. Keys, making his directorial debut, has done a solid job with this difficult piece. Mark Pickell's set is a marvel, set on a turntable, rotating to show both the interior and exterior of the crumbling suburban home.
Roxy Becker, as Paige, is a study in madness, appearing at first as merely capricious, she steadily degenerates to the stunning violent conclusion. Jay Byrd, as Arnold, delivers a heart- breakingly sad and touching performance. Nate Jackson is wonderful as Isaac, as he valiantly tries to regain what has been irretrievably lost. Dillon Yruegas, as Max, is both funny and touching as daughter transitioning to son.
HIR is a disturbing look at preconceived beliefs and notions about our way of life in a world where "everyone is a little bit of everything". This fascinating look at the separateness of humans juxtaposed with their want for community presents lots of questions about the world we all live in, but the play ends before there are any answers... that part is up to all of us.
HIR by Taylor Mac
Running Time: 2 hours including one fifteen-minute intermission.
HIR, produced by Jason Phelps for Capital T Theatre at The Off Center (2211 Hidalgo Street, Austin, TX)
Jan 5 - 22, 2017
Thursdays - Sundays 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: www.capitalT.org or 512-537-CAPT