BWW Review: Dysfunction Magnified HIR
HIR/by Taylor Mac/directed by Bart DeLorenzo/Odyssey Theatre/thru March 17, 2019
Even though, we are just coming to the end of January, I can already nominate a prominent candidate for Most Horrid Theatrical Character of 2019 - Paige Connor, the matriarch in Taylor Mac's HIR. Paige condescends to her husband Arnold (long since stricken by a stroke) and orders him around like a slave (or an untrained chimpanzee). Paige has eliminated doing any everyday household chores (like cooking, dusting, or laundry) in retaliation to the orderliness Arnold used to demand. She 'nurtures' or 'empowers' her transgender teenager Max by encouraging Max to follow mom's ways of thinking - an unrealistic utopian view of the future, with the avoidance of any financial responsibilities, while all the while belittling and torturing Arnold. But it's during the final minutes of the second act that Paige tops all of her previous horridness. (Don't worry, no spoiler alert here!) Her cold actions to her son Isaac, who just returned home from a long stint in the body parts unit of the military, will make your jaws drop and your heart hurt in horror.
Kudos to the cast of four for their total commitment to their unsympathetic roles of members of this extremely dysfunctional Connor family. All four characters possess their own distinctive flaws. Craziness piles upon craziness, until you don't know who's really the crazier one - the stroke-struck Arnold (a disoriented, barely speaking Ron Bottitta), or the commandeering Paige (a hyper, manic Cynthia Kania).
Graphic subject matters touched on, certainly not for the meek of heart - marital abuse, rape, masturbation, de-masculating humiliation, descriptive drug use, spiteful revenge, lots of puking, peeing and must plain meanness. Director Bart DeLorenzo keeps this Los Angeles premiere cast screaming at a frantic pace, like being in a MARAT/SADE asylum, successfully achieving (by contrast) the play's most effective scene - the one, turned-down-volume speaking scene near the end.
With the title being "HIR," the main focus would have been presumed to be on the transitioning challenges of Max (a raw Puppet). Max's feelings, though prominent, do take a back seat to the unhealthy predominant Paige/Arnold dynamics.
Zack Gearing fares the most human as returning soldier Isaac, who though with his own faults, seem the most caring human being in this Connor family.
Kudos to scenic designer Thomas A. Walsh and prop designer Josh Le Cour for their complementary talents in creating the chaos that clutters up the Connor living room/kitchen.