Steppenwolf Presents Taylor Mac’s HIR Review- Patriarchy Parody

Steppenwolf HIR
Francis Guinan as the family's fallen patriarch Photo: Michael Brosilow

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.  

Steppenwolf HIR
Paige instructs her son Isaac, newly returned from the war in Afghanistan, on the alphabet soup of gender variations, as her stroke-diminished husband holds the explanatory sign Photo: Michael Brosilow

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?

Read “Steppenwolf Theatre HIR Preview: Lauren Katz Explains– What Does A Dramaturg Do?” for an inside look at all the work that went into making this production so successful.

Steppenwolf HIR
Transitioning Max is ever explaining the world and all things trans to Paige Photo: Michael Brosilow
Steppenwolf HIR
Soon after the play starts, Isaac returns from the war, and then spends much of his energy trying to take in what happened in his absence Photo: Michael Brosilow

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.



Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.


Thru August 20, 2017

Curtain times vary.


Steppenwolf Theatre Company
1650 North Halsted








312 – 335 – 1650 or visit the Steppenwolf website.


Photos: Michael Brosilow

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"


Amy Munice

About the Author:

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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