Gender identity is a fraught subject, or it can be.
Unless you’re Paige (Kristine Nielsen) in Hir, at Playwrights Horizons, now extended (for the third
second time) to January 3rd December 20th, who exuberantly celebrates the “paradigm shift” in her family, and posts the alphabet of sexual orientation and identification to her fridge.
In Hir, the superb new play by Taylor Mac, Isaac (Cameron Scoggins) comes back from a war zone to a home he doesn’t recognize.
His mother, Paige is systematically neutering his father. Paige tells Isaac that she feeds Arnold (Daniel Oreskes) estrogen to quiet him. Paige says his chronic violence against his family is borne of mediocrity. His anger was only exacerbated by his being set aside in a society that no longer needs angry white men to perform the tasks that a younger more diverse workforce has can do. The patriarchy, Paige says, is dead, even though her other child, once Maxine has turned hirself with internet-purchased ‘mones into Max (Tom Phelan.)
Isaac is a sad, unsettled soul, with few prospects, even of inheriting his own birthright. Isaac rails against his mother’s mistreatment of his father, much as Hamlet in another time and play, objected to Gertrude’s mistreatment of his father, the King.
Paige is mercilessly unsentimental. Nielsen, as is usual for this terrific actress, has serious fun with this serious and seriously funny role. She parses every sentence to give Paige her hard-won power. Paige may have miscalculated the support she can expect from Isaac.
David Zinn has made a wondrous to behold thunder-struck set for Isaac to tidy for Hir.
Taylor Mac treats his eccentric, yet somehow mainstream, characters with humor and
respect. Under Niegel Smith’s direction, the ensemble is flawless.
Hir is a marvelous and must-be-seen play.
For more information on Hir, and for tickets, please visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/hir/
Next up at PH: Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime, directed by Anne Kauffman and starring Lois Smith.