‘Hir’ entertains with dysfunction 

click to enlarge Hir
  • COURTESY JENNIFER REILEY
  • Jax Jackson, left, and Nancy Opel appear in Magic Theatre’s highly entertaining world premiere of “Hir,” which opened Jan. 29.
It felt like vintage Magic Theatre at the world premiere of “Hir,” Taylor Mac’s funny, sad and appalling (in a good way) new play.

All present and accounted for are the terminally dysfunctional family — complete with loopy Mom, two radically opposite brothers and the mentally (and physically) challenged Dad — and the horrific family secrets, brutally exposed.

Mac, who wrote the dazzling extravaganza “The Lily’s Revenge,” which the Magic produced three seasons ago, goes for something completely different in this engrossing, if slightly overlong, comic drama, which he labels, quite appropriately, as “absurd realism.”

Each member of the middle-class Connor family is in psychic pain.

Older brother Isaac (a wiry, completely convincing Ben Euphrat), a war veteran dishonorably discharged from the Marines, vomits compulsively (especially, and quite hilariously, when Mom turns on the blender) as a side effect of his military job picking up exploded guts.

He has just arrived home with his duffel bag desperate for peace and succor, only to find the house in absolute chaos and his old room no longer his.

Cavalier and cheery Mom (a brilliantly inventive Nancy Opel) has given up cooking, cleaning and otherwise adhering to her prescribed housewifely role. Determinedly liberated, she is trying to forget her horrific past life.

She’s in charge these days because violent, abusive Dad (Mark Anderson Phillips, impressive in a role that’s vastly different from the characters he usually plays) had a stroke.

Humiliated and mistreated by now-dominant Mom, who sprays Dad’s face with water every time he tries to utter a word, he’s a pathetic, clown-like figure, a prisoner in his own partly paralyzed body. In fact, Mom actually dresses him up in clown makeup, fright wig and a tiny nightgown.

And Isaac’s little sister, Maxine (an elfin, appealing Jax Jackson), is now on “’mones” and is female-to-male transgender Max.

Strident about his newfound identity, he has convinced himself and Mom that he’s on the cutting edge of a gender-free societal paradigm. In his lexicon, “his” and “her” are now “hir,” pronounced “here,” and “he” and “she” are “ze”— but ze is just as lonely and lost as the others.

Director Niegel Smith has found just the right balance of humor and pathos to bring forth the full dimensionality of all the characters. He and the excellent ensemble dig deep to reveal the poignancy within Mac’s bizarre and utterly entertaining play.

REVIEW

Hir

Presented by Magic Theatre

Where: Building D, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, closes Feb. 23

Tickets: $20 to $60

Contact: (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Bio:
Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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