The curtain goes up, the belly laughs come out…
For starts, there is Steppenwolf all-star Francis Guinan in a woman’s pajama dress, clown make-up and wig. His wife Paige (Amy Morton) often squirts him with a water bottle to get him to behave. Clothing is strewn about what seems like the vestige of a living room hit by a cyclone. This could all be the work of Collette Pollard (scenic design), Jenny Mannis (costume design), and Director Hallie Gordon, but for those of us who have seen Taylor Mac hold forth on the stage before, this wreaks of judy’s imprimatur and keen sense of how to accessorize.
100% Taylor Mac
“judy” is Taylor Mac’s preferred gender pronoun of late, though this writer still clings to the earlier definition of “performer gender” that judy had previously proffered.
There is a story in HIR, of a son returning from Afghanistan with a case of PTSD and his sibling transitioning from sister to brother. And, there is a back story, or more accurately, several chapter back stories of this family that pre-dates that action on the stage.
For this writer it all seems somewhat secondary to the gender fluidity lecture at its heart that is actually the a-z of all things Taylor Mac.
Is there anyone else on the planet who has considered patriarchy and gender fluidity in all its permutations on par with this sometime playwright, all time performance artist?
Fans may also thirst for more
Taylor Mac’s superb wit, intelligence, and cultural insight informs every line of HIR. It’s a minority viewpoint that more than deserves an ear. Kudos to Steppenwolf for joining the MCA in bringing this viewpoint to Chicago stages.
Alas, for this now three-times Taylor Mac audience member it’s beginning to sound a bit one-note, creating a deep thirst for Taylor Mac’s intellect to take on more complexity. This writer, for example, associates Mac’s hometown of Stockton less with patriarchy and more with its main export, almonds, each reported to need 1.1 gallons of water to grow to maturity.
If Mac weren’t so darn clever at putting patriarchy in its rightful comic place, perhaps it wouldn’t matter if judy took on more. The promise of judy’s comic pen stretching in new directions is tantalizing.
Perhaps that’s also why this Taylor Mac fan especially loved the exchange between the two siblings - -transitioning Max (Em Grosland) and ex-soldier Isaac (Ty Olwin) on why Noah didn’t include the super-gender fluid squid on his Ark. (Answer—They are squid, they didn’t need to be on a boat.)
How gratifying to know that Taylor Mac is at judy best when putting judy in judy gunsights.
Thru August 20, 2017
Curtain times vary.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company
1650 North Halsted
Editor’s Note: For more insight into this production, read Picture this Post writer and HIR Assistant Dramaturg, Lauren Katz, "Steppenwolf Theatre HIR Preview: Lauren Katz Explains– What Does A Dramaturg Do?”
For a full preview of Steppenwolf's 2017-2018 season, read "Steppenwolf Theatre Company Presents 2017-2018 SEASON Preview."
And for an alternate interpretation of this play, read "Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents HIR Review-a return to their tradition of absurd realism"