BWW Review: The Nuclear Implodes In Stray Cat Theatre's HIR
Change can be jarring. The contemporary worldwide rise of populism demonstrates the backlash of the older generations against the new social current. Stray Cat Theatre's Hir showcases this social metamorphosis through the implosion of a nuclear family and its identity politics.
Directed by Ron May, the show centers around the evolution of the Connor family. Isaac, dishonorably discharged from the military for drug use, returns home to find his abusive and hyper-masculine father incapacitated and dressed in clownish attire, and his house a mess with clothes and various food products scattered about. His mother, Paige, has rebuked all gender roles, saying, "We don't do order"-- and is on a journey to "educate herself," informed about the social progression of the world by Isaac's once-sister, Max, who is in gender transition. The show is named after Max's preferred pronoun--a combination of "him" and "her": "Hir" pronounced as "here."
Isaac, played by Andy Cahoon, is a man confused by the newness of his old family. Cahoon portrays marine Isaac with empathy, as his character deals with PTSD and a "home" that is entirely no longer his. Cahoon plays Isaac with grace--his facial expressions tense and confrontational, but soft when dealing with Max. Cathy Dresbach serves Paige's character with complete, embodied understanding. Dresbach perfectly toes the line of Paige's perceived insanity and her comprehensible rationale. Paige, although first thought to be cruel towards her husband, later becomes understandable, when the audience learns she was physically and sexually abused by Arnold. There is never a dry moment with Dresbach and her emotional capacity.
Max, portrayed by KJ Williams, is absolutely phenomenaL. Williams lands every witticism with exceptional accuracy, and showcases Max's torn sentiments with understanding and compassion. Gary David Keast as Arnold, the father with fewer lines, is fantastic with a strong stage presence lest you forget he's there (you never forget).
The script written by Taylor Mac, is filled with zesty witticisms and sharp one-liners. Mac does a great service balancing the comedy of the piece in an otherwise very dark and unsettling social scape. Director May perfectly develops a linear story, so that the sometimes emotionally abrupt transitions are digested and understood,
Hir is about the turning point of society, a battle between the old and the new, and the consequential gender and identity politics that come as a result. Additionally, it addresses how we deal with change we cannot control, and how far our empathy extends to understand one another, and especially the ones we love. Hir is a poignant "dramedy," that boils down the human condition to an idea, put by Paige: "We're all everything."
Hir continues its run via Stray Cat Theatre at Tempe Center for the Arts through May 13. To order tickets, call the Tempe Center for the Arts box office at 480-350-2TCA or order online at www.straycattheatre.org.