Posted by: | Posted on: July 8, 2017

Dysfunction Meets a Disruptive Pattern

hir_7A powerful portrayal of dysfunction is only one way, to sum up, this compelling, persuasive and gripping production of HIR. From the moment the curtain slowly retracts and the stage comes into view, you are drawn into the world of pronouns, a new set of proclivities and the painful past of a woman name Paige. Your eyes are amazed by the disarray of clothes everywhere, but what you don’t see is why.

Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. Living in a household where abuse has taken place alters the dynamics of the family, propelling it into a dysfunctional family unit of individuals trying to become functional. This has, unfortunately, become the new normality in a family where hurt people, hurt people.

HIR is a beguiling play that peels back the layers on so many different levels from domestic abuse, the trauma of war (at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression) and the acceptance of gender neutrality (In 2016, advocates tracked at least 22 deaths of transgender people in the United States due to fatal violence.)

The play with the unique name happens to be a gender pronoun (a gender pronoun is a pronoun that a person uses for themselves.) It derives from the pronoun “her” and it is (pronounced “here.”)  

Dramedy Mixed With Dark Humor

HIR introduces us to the prodigal son Isaac (Ty Olwin) coming home from Afghanistan. After a dishonorable discharge from the military due to drug-related offenses, Isaac seeks to find comfort and some form of normalcy as he dreams of coming home to his old bedroom. Instead, he was greeted with a different type of war a war of chaos and turmoil.

This play is a classic dysfunctional family dramedy mixed with dark humor that allows us to see the aftermath whenhir_2 an abusive father Arnold (Francis Guinan) suffers a stroke and turns into a helpless, childlike individual. His wife Paige (Amy Morton) retaliates by dresses him up like a clown to humiliate him for being mentally and physically abusive to her. Her suffering of abuse and adultery has made her extremely bitter and she is more than happy to take back control of her life by adding a dose of karma for him. She even uses positive manipulation with one of her off-springs to get what she wants ‘Revenge!’ Feeling justified because of the abuse she suffered she gets lost in a world of bitterness and hatred and develops an anti-Arnold slogan, “We don’t do that anymore attitude.”

With this newfound freedom, Paige is liberated and uninhibited by the orderly demands forced upon her by her militant husband so she decided to strike a blow against her abusive past and refuses to clean the house. She also decides to feed Arnold a milkshake mixed with estrogen to keep him submissive, she refuses to allow him to watch television and uses hand puppets for entertainment to further undermine Arnold of his dominating ways.

Adding to the chaos is Max, (Em Grosland) Isaac transgender sister who has grown a beard. Max is happy to explain to you the new world order of gender pronouns and the alphabet of genders. Can you say, LGBTTSQQIAAP? Confused, I bet. Paige tells Isaac “What you think you know, you don’t know. There is no he or her, there is only HIR!”

Isaac trying to make sense out of the senseless deconstruction of his family was still battling PTSD which has damaged him via his years in mortuary services. Unsettled by all of changes and mayhem that has taken place since he was gone, he is determined more than ever, if he can stop regurgitating to exert control and regain something, anything that resembles the life he once knew.

While home, Isaac immediately noticed everything was out of order. He remembered that his father kept everything orderly within the family before his stroke, so to bring back that sense of order, he refuses to jump on his mother’s crusade of emasculating his father and even if it comes at the cost of losing her love and respect, he is willing to reinstate his father back to his place beside the television to get some order back in the house.

The old Osmond song that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch isn’t true in this family. The trickle-down effect of abusive and dysfunction can live for generations and HIR did a marvelous job showing us the signs of avoidance.

Director Hallie Gordon creatively dropped us into a modern day war zone by suggestively taking us through a family in crisis with dark humor shedding a light on some serious topics. Playwright Taylor Mac presents to us a plot that might seem simple on the surface but as he continues to peel back the layers of this family you will quickly come to realize that there’s more beneath the overlay of each character.

Although this play was engrossingly funny at times, it delivered with an inspiring and astounding content of how a person can lose themselves in the turmoil of resentment to get even with someone that hurt them.

We highly recommend this play because it’s funny and terrifying at the same time!

The Cast includes:

Francis Guinan (Arnold)

Amy Morton (Paige)

Em Grosland (Max)

Ty Olwin (Isaac)


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