HIR at Steppenwolf: asks what pronoun are you?

HIR at Steppenwolf: asks what pronoun are you?
(l to r) Amy Morton (Paige) and Francis Guinan (Arnold)

Ze, she, he, him, her, hir, his, hers, hirs

Family isn’t quite what it used to be according to Mac Taylor’s (judy–not a name but a gender pronoun) explosive Chicago premiere of Hir now on stage at Steppenwolf Theatre.

After recently seeing Eugene O’Neill’s Ah Wilderness at the Goodman Theatre–a story about family life in 1906–this became especially evident.

Hir (pronounced here) is a wake up call as to just how much things have changed.

The 4-person kitchen-sink dark comedy takes on a lot. There’s transgender, post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and abuse–all wrapped up in an in your face package.

The show opens on scenic designer Collette Pollard’s trash filled stage–the California home of what once might have been the traditional American family–husband, wife, son and daughter.

But a lot has changed in the last few years since the abusive father Arnold, played by (Francis Guinan) has suffered a disabling stroke.

When son Isaac (Ty Olwin) returns home from the military (where he was responsible for picking up body parts) after being dishonorably discharged for using drugs, he discovers his once orderly home has turned into a total disaster.hir11

His mom, Paige, played by the always outstanding Amy Morton, has gone from the meek little housewife to an outwardly cruel seemingly crazy lady who will stop at at nothing–now that she’s in charge.

He hardly recognizes his dad, Arnold, who is dressed in woman’s clothes with clown makeup. His sister Max (Em Grosland) now has a beard–part of the hormones mom, Paige, is giving him to help through the transgender process.

hir_2There are a lot of what ifs in the play that begs the question ” What responsibility do we have toward something that has abused you.

Can Paige whose been liberated from an oppressive and abusive marriage be excused for her cruel treatment of her now disabled husband?

Max who serves as the playwright’s mouth-piece for the story is Taylor Mac’s take on gender identity–asking “what if America (we always think of the prodigal son as the metaphor for America), what if the metaphor for America was the transgender kid instead?”

The play’s title, Hir, is a pronoun signifying that there are no longer two genders. The message being that we need to respect gender pronoun choices. Max is no longer a “she” or “he”–Max is a “ze.” Issac is a “he.” Paige is a “she.”

If you are not sure what gender pronoun to use for a person, ask. Never call someone “it,”

Tickets: Single tickets ($20-$89) available at 312-335-1650 or online.

Where: 1650 N Halsted St.

When: now through August 20, 2017

Running time: 2 hours including 15 minute intermission

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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