Tuesday, May 2, 2017

reviews - HIR - Stray Cat Theatre

KJ Williams, Cathy Dresbach, and Andy Cahoon
photo by John Groseclose
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 13th.

"...In the new, darker than dark comedy from writer and performance artist Taylor Mac, HIR ...presented by Stray Cat Theatre...Issac has just spent three years working overseas with the military ...he’s now returned to the family home somewhere in Central Valley, California. And it’s a mess...both literally and figuratively, and the ex-marine is having trouble processing the information......You can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of what Issac is witnessing, and there’s a lot in Mac’s script to laugh at, particularity in the first half, but there’s always that nagging feeling from the beginning that something ugly is lurking beneath the surface of what appears to be forced and even, occasionally, annoying eccentricity. ... Keep laughing, despite the reveals of the second half, and the dysfunction might also be yours... KJ Williams as gender-bender Max nicely conveys a sense of surface bluster and confidence...from time to time...reveals a peek at the more vulnerable layer of Max’s personal doubt. With Gary David Keast’s depiction of stroke-afflicted dad...There are times in the second half when you catch a glimpse, albeit brief ones, of the angry, even dangerous man he once was, and it’s totally convincing. ....Andy Cahoon’s returning Issac skillfully combines both a sense of normalcy and his own level of weirdness. ...But the outstanding performance comes from Cathy Dresbach. ...with her body language, her eye rolls, and her overall loony ebullience, Dresbach delivers...you believe in her. There’s truth in the madness..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...what would happen if you returned home from a war zone and the entire family you thought you knew had completely changed? Taylor Mac's 2014 play Hir is a dark comedy that intelligently focuses on the war of the sexes and the shifts in gender identity in the modern family. At the center of Mac's play is one very dysfunctional family. Stray Cat Theatre's production has perceptive direction and a crackerjack cast who elicit superb portrayals of these absurd but realistic individuals.
Isaac...returns home after three years of service to find the family he left behind is now virtually unrecognizable. His father Arnold had a stroke a year ago and is now almost completely incapacitated. His mother Paige relishes her new-found freedom from her formerly abusive spouse with sadistic glee ...Isaac's teenage sister Maxine has transitioned to Max via hormones bought over the internet, preferring now to be referred to by the pronoun "hir"—a combination of "him" and "her" and pronounced "here." There's also that slight issue of the house looking like a pigsty...Isaac attempts to find some semblance of order in this chaotic mess... that he so desperately seeks while also struggling to fully comprehend these new gender norms and fit in to his new family dynamic. Mac's script is both hilariously absurd and tenderly moving, with four characters you are drawn to emotionally even though they are all far from perfect. Mac expertly shifts the landscape of traditional gender roles by presenting ideas that force us to question our own beliefs. Not everything in the play works or is fully fleshed out or concluded, but the world that Mac has created is intriguing and full of lively characters and many topics that will get you talking and thinking long after the play has ended...Director Ron May elicits superb portrayals...Jeff Thomson's scenic design expertly evokes the rundown house while Maci Cae Hosler's costumes align perfectly with the gender morphs and absurdity of the piece. Andy Cahoon is excellent as the confused Marine...As Paige, Cathy Dresbach is full of fire. At first we think Paige is either unreasonable or a monster for the way she treats Arnold...But...there is a rationale for her behavior. Dresbach is superb in letting us see how these past moments of pain... have brought joy to her life....KJ Williams is simply sensational as Max in the breakout performance of the season. It is a gender bending performance of such depth and detail. ...As Arnold, Gary David Keast..delivers plenty of emotion with his firm stage presence...While Mac throws a lot of ideas out there concerning our preconceived images of man and woman and the gender roles they are supposed to portray, they don't all stick or solidify. But the ones that do will have you thinking and questioning what you thought before. ... a stimulating and thought provoking black comedy filled with damaged people who are also individuals who have moments of ugliness. Through the skilled performances and expert direction of this Stray Cat Production, and Mac's expert writing, you may find that even through their ugliness you empathize with them and are hopeful they find some form of happiness in their very bleak world. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

".Dysfunctional families exist throughout America but you’ve never met one quite like the Connor’s who populates Taylor Mac’s often hard-to-watch play “Hir” (Here) that is presented superbly by Stray Cat Theatre.  The dynasty is headed by stroke-impacted father, Arnold, a sexually ambiguous son, Max, a military family man, Isaac, and Paige, the twisted matriarch. Paige heads the floundering family and her “I don’t care…” attitude has taken over her once conventional Central California Valley household.  The play opens in the Connor’s messy enclave that Paige refuses to clean. ...After a stint in the Afghanistan war, Issac arrives home expecting the normalcy of his once sane family that is now riddled with chaotic confusion....In inexperienced hands, this play could bomb but the four-person cast headed by Cathy Dresbach’s superb Paige and guided by director Ron May’s sure and steady staging, turns the play into a stunning eye-opener.  ... the play’s impact and the importance of always being involved in the world is vividly addressed in this tense collection of bizarre family actions. Dresbach is measured at one moment, irrational at others but she always conveys the character’s wacky irrationality.  It’s quite a performance and Dresbach may be the only local actor who could create such a character with such perfect irrational believably.  Gary David Keast plays the dress-wearing Arnold with mindless bitterness.  KJ Williams’ confused Max will no doubt turn into a crazy like his mother.  Andy Cahoon’s Isaac is the family’s rational character who handles his off-the-wall family with relative control.." --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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