By Gray Thomas
Hir by Taylor Mac and directed by Tracy Callahan, makes its regional debut at Salt Lake Acting Company, located in the refurbished church just west of the capitol in Salt Lake City. On its face, Hir is about a state of transition for the Connor Family. A former Marine, Isaac Connor (Austin Archer), arrives home from a three-year deployment in Afghanistan to find disorder and chaos within his family. His father, Arnold Connor (Richard Scott) has suffered a stroke since he was away. His mother, Paige (Christy Summerhays), vengeful for the abuse by her husband before his affliction, has become a hyper-radical feminist. His sibling has begun transitioning genders to become Max Connor (Liggera Edmonds-Allen). Isaac must now navigate a new reality after the façade of his previous home before his deployment has dissipated
The production opens on a set, designed by Cara Pomeroy, that is in complete disarray bordering on a cesspool. The living room and dining room feature clothes and dishes piled in mounds. Cabinets and walls feature puerile drawings and marks. Pictures are defiled. This setting, in some way, reflects the psyche of the returned Marine who served in the mortuary affairs, which is the search, recovery, identification, preparation, and disposition of casualties in war. Much like the bodies he describes retrieving from the field of battle, the house is a state of morbidity. His father is dressed in a nightgown and clown makeup, completely neglected following a stroke. Isaac learns about the stroke and is completely repulsed by Paige and Max’s neglect. Isaac attempts to persuade the family to return to a state of civility, though the audience discovers Isaac’s own pretenses of order are faulty as he struggles with a drug addiction that leads to his dishonorable discharge.
While much of the attention for this production has focused on transgender issues, the play is about much more. Taylor Mac, judyself (Mac prefers the pronoun judy), describes the play as addressing homogeneity and heterogeneity. “It is trying to be multiple things,” Mac says, “in a world that is asking it to be one thing.” Using Isaac as a metaphor for order and stability, Mac plays out a modern American metanarrative using the house and the character Max to represent a state of post 9/11 transition. In this transition, America has gone from glory to chaos. The previous glory days, though, were built upon violence and destruction to create and maintain order. The physical disarray of the house is a reflection of the emotional disarray that existed previously and continues to exist.
You will not find a resolution to this play. After the lights go down and then back up for the casts’ final bow, you will be left with goosebumps and questions. This play rollercoasters from moments of hilarity to heart-wrenching tragedy that will stick with you days after seeing it. In this moment of American history in which we have been engaged in multiple wars, seen the volatility of the stock market loosen the foundations of the American economy, rising drug abuse rates nationwide, stagnant wages, and a cynical workforce, this play beckons contemporary American audiences into deeper contemplation about the current and past state of the country. This play is necessary.
Salt Lake Acting Company presents HIR by Taylor Mac
168 W 500 N, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
February 7-March 11, 2018 7:30 PM, Matinees: Sundays 1:00 PM
Contact: 801-363-7522, firstname.lastname@example.org
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