Thursday September 21st 2017

” HIR”

Highly Recommended ***** If you have a problem dealing with the theatrics of “over-played”  dysfunctional families, then you will want to avoid the newest offering on the stage at Steppenwolf Theatre, “HIR” written by Taylor Mac. The title refers to some gender-bending and the way our modern world should see the references we make to each other. “Hir” replaces him or her depending on which way the person may be heading during the transition period. This particular play under the astute direction of Hallie Gordon, now in its Chicago premiere, takes us into the home of a family that represents what is happening in today’s modern world.

When the curtain opens, our eyes are drawn to the messiest of stage sets one might ever see (Collette Pollard is amazing!) as we meet the family. The mother, Paige (played to perfection by Amy Morton) a woman who has been liberated from a tough marriage when her husband’s life falls apart and he has a stroke. Arnold ( Francis Guinan as you have never seen this quality actor before) is more like a vegetable than a man, dressed in a nightgown, wig and almost clown-like painted face. This once dominating powerhouse of a man, who beat his wife and overpowered his children is now a shell of a man.

They have two children. The eldest is Issac (deftly handled by Ty Olwin) who has just returned from the military with a dishonorable discharge. Their other child is Max (marvelously played by Em Grosland) a daughter, who is in the midst of becoming their “gay son”. I did say this was a dysfunctional family, didn’t I ? Issac cannot believe what he has come home to and feels the need to bring his family back to what is normal, but, in regards to this family and the changing world we live in, what might normal be?

For those of you unaware of the playwright, let me tell you that Taylor Mac is known as “judy” (not as his name, but as a gender pronoun) which helps to make sense out of some of the content in this play about working class people who grew up in a world of “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It To Beaver” or “The Nelson’s” and has been witness to the changes that have taken place in a very short period of time. There are many very funny moments in this story, but behind each comic moment  , another place to think about what has taken place in this family and how the modern world has altered how we look at life and who we are.

“What used to be’s don’t count anymore ( a line from a Neil Diamond song), they just lay on the floor til we sweep them away” truly defines the substance of this piece. Everything that we took for granted for generations, is no longer the norm. If you have two children, a boy and a girl, they may decide that this is not what they want, and changes do happen. A married couple are not tied to each other for life and the power can change from him to her at a drop of a job. There are many surprises in this well written, solidly directed play ,and not wanting to spoil one second of this two- hour (two acts/ 15 minute intermission) production, I will just tell you that piece by piece the puzzle does come together, until the very end- some will love the end, others will be stunned. In this production, the fourth wall, the one we look into to see the action, could easily be seen as a mirror, allowing us to reflect on today’s world, for ourselves.

The technical aspects of this production are amazing. Jenny Mannis (costumes), Ann G. Wrightson (lighting), Richard Woodbury (original music and sound) and Matt Hawkins (fight choreography). The propmaster, Lacie Hexom did an extraordinary job. There were so many items and they had to be messy on top of it. Discussion at intermission was if the set would be turned around to reveal an exact duplicate so there would be a messy set along with a neat version. I say, no- the crew did one heck of a job during the intermission, for sure.

“Hir” will continue on the Main Stage at Steppenwolf Theatre located at 1650 N. Halsted thru August 20th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.  (2 p.m. shows on 8/2- 8/16)

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.  and 7:30 p.m. (no evening show on 8/6- 8/20)

 

Sign Language performance 7/30  7:30 p.m.

Open Caption  8/12 3 p.m.

touch tour 8/13  1:30 p.m. with show at 3 p.m. (audio description)

Tickets range from $20- $66 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org

Student tickets at $15 (subject to availability) online with ID

discussions after the production with cast and crew members.

Parking is available in the garage, lot and on the street (metered and not)

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Hir”.

 

One Comment for “” HIR””

  • Robert Matanky says:

    As usual, a stunning review portraying the true feeling of the performance! And you were right about the set change.


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