In a darkly comic exploration of family dysfunction and the patriarchy, Pi Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of acclaimed American playwright Taylor Mac’s Hir from November 22–December 8, 2018, at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex. The production explores the dynamics of a suburban family dealing with PTSD, identity crises, and gender politics in absurdly realistic fashion. Featuring an incredible cast of accomplished performers, Mac’s play introduces audiences to Isaac, a war veteran who returns to the suburbs to find a household in chaos. Isaac must learn to find the balance between a disabled patriarch, a liberated mother, and a newly out transgender teen in this timely and subversive work.
“Hir is an outrageously provocative play in the rich tradition of black comedies centred on the dysfunctional American family,” says Pi Theatre Artistic Director Richard Wolfe, who also directs the work. “Mac’s take-no-prisoners satire of family dynamics is very much of our time, interrogating the bumps of transition that we are experiencing as the world turns away from a Western-centric hegemony. Hir examines the conflict between our need for safety and our desire to risk it all to find a better, truer way to live — no matter the collateral damage to those we love. Each of the characters in the play is undergoing profound transformation, just as we are feeling colossal shifts in our cultural and political landscape. Hir puts a deliciously caustic bow on all of it.”
Called an “audacious and uproarious black comedy” by The New York Times, the play follows the dishonourably discharged Isaac, returning from the horrors of Afghanistan only to be faced with another high-stress situation: the family home turned upside down. His father, Arnold, has suffered a stroke and been rendered incapacitated; his mother, Paige, is finally out from under the thumb of her violently domineering husband; his younger sibling, Max, is a transgender teen out to destabilize the patriarchy. The confluence of Arnold’s disability and Max’s coming out has turned Paige toward a radical feminism that sees her refusing to clean the house in an act of unbridled defiance. She exacts revenge on her husband for years of verbal and physical abuse, humiliating Arnold by force-feeding him estrogen, dressing him as a wild drag clown, and putting him in diapers. While Hir is a manic, absurdist tragicomedy, it is also a wake-up call about the need for honest communication.
Hir features an extraordinary cast of accomplished performers from across Canada. Calgary-based transgender actor Jordan Fowlie, who has appeared on Hell on Wheels (AMC), plays Max. Local acting legend Deborah Williams, one of the co-creators and stars of the Mom’s the Word trilogy, plays the militant Paige. Andrew Wheeler, one of Vancouver’s finest actors who recently appeared in Bard on the Beach’s critically lauded As You Like It (2018) plays the largely mute and subservient Arnold. Victor Dolhai, who has appeared in productions at the Stratford and Chemainus Theatre Festivals, plays discharged serviceman Isaac.
Hir is directed by two-time Jessie Award-winning Richard Wolfe, whose most recent production was Pi Theatre’s The Events (2017), which opened at PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in January 2018. The creative team includes set designer Patrick Rizzotti, Siminovitch Prize-nominated lighting designer Alan Brodie, costume designer Carmen Alatorre, and sound designer Mishelle Cuttler.
The work is part of the inaugural SeeMore Theatre Initiative, a two-year pilot program that features four resident companies at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex. Since its premiere in 2014, Hir has been produced in 48 locations around the globe, including at Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago), Woolly Mammoth Theatre (Washington D.C.), and Belvoir St Theatre (Sydney), where it received the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Play of the Year.
Hir runs Nov 22–Dec 8 at the Annex theatre. Tickets can be found at pitheatre.com/hir.