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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 9, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 10
ArtsWest's Hir a darkly comic shocker that's magnificently captivating
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ArtsWest's Hir a darkly comic shocker that's magnificently captivating

by Paul Torres - SGN Contributing Writer

HIR
ARTSWEST &
INTIMAN THEATRE
Through March 25


Hir by Taylor Mac doesn't hold back. It's a darkly comic shocker from act to act. ArtsWest and Intiman co-produce this latest production directed by noted Seattle scenic designer Jennifer Zeyl. Zeyl is well-known for her activities in the Seattle theater scene including her work with ACT Theatre (among others) and as being Founding Co-Artistic Director of Washington Ensemble Theatre. She has won the Stranger Genius Award and this production proves she is a powerhouse director as well.

Hir is essential viewing. It's a radical, feminist, queer, #metoo themed story. The mother in the story has the reins now and is not holding back in any way. Seen through the perspective of an abused lower middle class woman, Hir is a remarkable peek into modern familial discord.

Gretchen Krich gives an impressive performance as the mother, Paige. She tears through each moment at a high emotional pitch that absolutely enthralls the audience. Her dramatic and comic timing are impeccable as she delivers truths that are timely and more importantly relevant. Krich's talent is the perfect mechanism for playwright Mac's sensational writing.

Krich leads a group of talented actors. They have to be in order to keep up with the frenetic pace with which she delivers the potent dialogue. Playing her disgraced ex-marine, meth-addict son is Evan Barrett as Isaac. Isaac returns from Afghanistan to find his home in shambles. Barrett is magnificent with this challenging theme and with his character's withered white male privilege. Even his duty in the mortuary services in the military does not prepare him for what is to come. When his character greets his now disabled father dressed in humiliating clown garb, it is a heart-wrenching father and son moment.

The father, Arnold, is played by Charles Leggett. His subtle performance is sadly beautiful as a man crippled by a stroke and who is now completely emasculated by his wife. She orders him to shut door and turn up the air conditioner as she spritzes him with a water spray bottle like a naughty kitten. As Max, Adrian Kljucec gives a beaming performance. This character is the 'hir' (rhymes with fear) of this story. Once a daughter and a sister in this traditional and mostly faulty family dynamic, Max is now transitioning from a distraught childhood and its junky 'fluorescent food' diet to a person who lives their true self. Now Max re-voices herstory to move on to a future where it all hopefully gets better.

Not surprising, with Zeyl at the helm, the scenic design is excellent. Julia Welch and Timothy White Eagle bring to the stage a portrait of a home in decline; clothes strewn everywhere, furniture not where it's supposed to be, walls graffitied with slogans. There are Pride flags, worn posters, and a rattling air conditioner, which is a character in itself in this play. Even as the clutter clears in the second act the decay becomes more vivid just as the family dynamic dismantles. Lighting Designer Robert Aguilar's lighting is flawless as it never obscures or shadows the true faces of this paralyzing American night terror.

Shades of renowned playwrights appear to influence Hir. Is it Edward Albee and its sad portrayal of marriage in tatters? Is it the sad sack useless father akin to Arthur Miller? Or can it be like Sam Shepard's depictions of an American family who love one another just out of exhausting obligation? In many ways Hir transcends these classic themes and becomes something of its own. It shines a bright light on family in this new era gender idealism. It breaks down the dangerous and ever waning patriarchy and its fantasy of power. It reveals a home that is just a cheap house of plywood and glue built on an actual heap of trash. Peek inside the cracked windows and see a house with busted walls, cheap counter-tops, and among this mess - an emptiness. Who is left to pick up the pieces of the emotional scatterings? So-called father? So-called mother? Brother/sister-sister/brother? This complex and confusing story is certainly not afraid to speak its truth about domestic abuse, PTSD, and gender parity. Hir revels in this horrid space and it is magnificently captivating.

Hir is presented by ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery (4711 California Ave SW) and co-produced with Intiman Theatre. For more information and tickets, visit www.artswest.org or call 206-938-0963.

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ArtsWest's Hir a darkly comic shocker that's magnificently captivating
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