Shows Worth Seeing:
By Taylor Mac
416 W. 4nd St.
A provocative variation on the domestic American family play, Hir is a parable of survival and sacrifice amid suddenly overturned gender norms. Twenty-something Isaac (Cameron Scoggins) returns from a horrifying three years of soldiering hoping to nestle into healing normalcy in his family’s suburban home. Instead, he finds the house a wreck because his mother Paige (Kristine Nielsen) has sworn off degrading housework, his teenage sister Max (Tom Phelan) has transformed into a boy, and his father Arnold (Daniel Oreskes) is wearing a parti-colored wig, makeup and a housedress. Paige has been home-schooling Max, who has taught her about LGBT culture, and together, with their new progressively subversive majority, they have seized control of a household they once cowered in. Before his recent stroke weakened him, Arnold abused everyone, but Paige has neutered him with force-fed estrogen.
Hir—whose title refers to a gender-neutral pronoun—is not a realistic play. It’s a brightly ridiculous, implausibly articulate, discursive gloss on one. Taylor Mac didn’t even try to make the action consistently convincing in psychological terms; the thrust is on comedy and allegory. Niegel Smith’s production doesn’t always get the pitch right: Nielsen’s mugging and identical guttural punch-lines grow repetitious; a running gag about vomiting goes on too long. And yet Mac’s scenario is so intelligent, incandescent and (no small matter) fair-minded that one follows the action as intensely as a thriller. It delivers the sort of pleasure usually reserved for fabulous train-wrecks. A bi teenager I attended with told me ze generally liked the play but couldn’t forgive Mac for poking gentle fun at pronoun zealotry. To me that reaction is a high compliment to Mac, whose play evidently pushes presumptive partisans and adversaries alike out of their comfort zones.