Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hir **

This play by downtown performance artist Taylor Mac, now in previews at Playwrights Horizons, might be called a kitchen sink drama, but the sink is filled with dirty dishes and the drama is covered by a thick layer of absurdist comedy. This semi-autobiographical play presents a family living on the edge in Stockton, California. Paige (the always wonderful Kristine Nielsen), the mother, is getting her revenge on her stroke-diminished husband Arnold (Daniel Orestes) for the years of abuse he subjected her and her children to by dressing him up in women’s clothes, clown wig and makeup and keeping him overmedicated. Teen-age daughter Maxine has become Max (Tom Phelan), a transgendered young man sporting a scruffy beard. Paige is home schooling Max to protect hir (the transgender pronoun) from bullying. Paige is convinced that a new golden age is arising where gender fluidity is the norm and patriarchal power is a thing of the past. Early in the play older son Isaac (a strong Cameron Scoggins) returns home after three years in a Marine mortuary unit in Afghanistan. He is shocked by what he finds — a cluttered home worthy of the Collyer brothers, a barely coherent father, a sister turned brother and a newly assertive mother. This is not the comforting home he hoped to return to. A power struggle between Isaac and Paige ensues. The play’s frequently hilarious moments do not hide the underlying sadness. Paige’s philosophy seemed half-baked and its presentation, repetitious. A certain amount of chaos is necessary to the play, but there was too much for my taste. Any play that offers Kristine Nielsen a starring role is worth seeing in my book, but this play puts that to the test. David Zinn’s set is a cluttered wonder. Gabriel Berry’s costumes suit their characters well. Director Niegel Smith’s direction is assured. Running time: one hour 50 minutes including intermission.

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