by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Anywhere but hir…
Playwright Taylor Mac’s acclaimed dysfunctional family drama Hir making its Los Angeles premiere at the Odyssey Theatre is a bleak fandango of messy but deeply serious realities.
A darkly humorous portrayal of a family in crisis the play focuses on mainly the very debilitated dynamics of people dealing absurdly with our ‘liberated’, gender-politicized age.
Mom, Paige (Cynthia Kania) is no longer cleaning the house, like, stuff is everywhere, on purpose. After years of oppression and domestic abuse, she is suddenly freed from the grips of dad who has suffered a stroke. Dad, Arnold (Ron Bottitta) formerly a once violently abusive cheating husband, as we come to discover, is now wearing house dresses, wigs, makeup and diapers, drinking highly medicated shakes from his sippy cup, sleeping in a cardboard box on the floor and learning how to be obedient. Son, Isaac (Zack Gearing) is back from a tour in Afghanistan, dishonorably discharged for embarrassing drug experimentation, desperately in need of order and the creature comforts of his former ‘home.’ And Max (Puppett) Isaac’s sensitive, under-age newly trans, gender queer brother (aka former sister) is busy shooting hirself up with hormones, resentfully educating everyone on the vast new gender identification system, treating Dad as horribly as possibly in revenge for years of abuse and even more desperate than Isaac, but to leave for a new life.
It’s a hot mess, mess, totally disastrous and un-redemptively calamitous. So sad is their collective condition that, yes, it’s hilarious. Except it’s not.
Just the passing thought of this family surviving is entirely grim, even if Paige was going to allow it, which she isn’t. The house has been sold and they are living under a 501c3 trust until the money runs out. She’s doing her best to get her husband to die as quickly as he can. Isaac is fighting an uphill battle to turn their decimation in another direction. But nothing is his and he no longer belongs. He’s turning into his father, making demands and physical thrusts as a show of temporary personal power which gets him kicked out with nowhere to go. And when that happens, Max is ultimately left alone in this world un-parented, unguided, unprotected, confused, isolated more than ever, longing for freedom, utterly desperate for direction. More than anyone in this situation, hir gets nothing.
Everything about this play, these people, this production is just messy. It takes a full first act for us to understand what Paige is driving at (essentially, she’s taking down the Patriarchy single-handed) with all of the insanity.
On the surface, sure we see it. But emotionally, we never connect with what she’s dealing with until she finally makes a confession to her children about how their lives are built on nothing…no stronger or lasting than the hole-punched dry-wall with which their ‘starter home’ was built. There is hardly empathy with any of these people except for Max. Hir is the future. And the future is so alone in all of this. What the play does, however, is drive home the point consummately as to how at odds the modern family, modern people, is with, well, modern reality.
We are in tremendous upheaval and it’s clear from this tiny little purview that things are not going well. We are finding it difficult to keep up with, sure necessary, but the nevertheless painful assault of changes. And we are overwhelmed by empathy, anger, disillusionment, compassion, and shock, as we try to navigate the muck of it all while trying to lodge the past in the past, but not being able to wipe it from our future, yet.
Excellent ensemble work by the entire cast driven by Ron Bottitta (even without words!) and Cynthia Kania.
Written by Taylor Mac
Directed by Bart DeLorenzo
Starring Ron Bottitta, Zack Gearing, Cynthia Kania, Puppett
Presented by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Ron Sossi Artistic Director
Photo (above) by Enci Box: Ron Bottitta
Copyright © 2019 Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator”.