LOS ANGELES (Dec. 6, 2018) — “We are the new. Beyond gender. Beyond possessions. Beyond the past.” Odyssey Theatre Ensemble opens its 50th anniversary season with the Los Angeles premiere of Hir, a darkly funny, shockingly absurd and endlessly surprising vision of a world in transition by MacArthur genius Taylor Mac. Bart DeLorenzo directs for a Jan. 19 opening at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A., with performances continuing through March 17.
Hilarious and terrifying, Hir is a dysfunctional family dramedy for a new era: a highly intelligent, heartfelt and deeply, darkly humorous portrayal of a family in crisis, in which domestic abuse, the trauma of war and the acceptance of gender neutrality are illustrated in a nearly absurd, emotionally gripping, intensely real dynamic. Somewhere in the American suburbs, Isaac, dishonorably discharged from his tour in Afghanistan, has returned home to discover a household in revolt. The insurgent: his mom. Liberated from an oppressive marriage to Isaac’s father by his debilitating stroke, and with Max, Isaac’s newly out transgender sibling, as her ally, Paige is on a crusade to dismantle the patriarchy.
“Hir is about the future of America and how we might break into the next moment,” says DeLorenzo. “This country, in its defining documents, was seeking to transition from autocratic rule to individual rights, but how far did we get? And will we keep moving forward, or will we move back? Hir is the opposite of the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan: it’s arguing that unless you’re willing to overlook and ignore quite a lot, this country has never been great, has never lived up to the promise of its constitutional freedoms. But, from this point on, many voices contend, it will have to. And what will be the cost of this liberation? At the same time, Hir is a very funny dark comedy, what Mac calls ‘absurd realism.’ Mac adopts the form of the classic American family play and then sends it spinning.”
The word “hir” is a gender-neutral, third-person singular object pronoun that replaces the use of him or her. According to Mac, “The title is a metaphor. It’s pronounced ‘here,’ and I enjoy the duality of something being about gender and also about place.”
Hir was developed at San Francisco’s Magic Theater, where it premiered in 2014, and at New Dramatists as part of their Creativity Fund. It opened in New York City at Playwright’s Horizons a year later, where it was named one of the “Top Ten Best Theater of 2015” by The New York Times. “Perhaps no play this year inspired a greater sense of awe than Taylor Mac’s audacious dive into the dysfunctional-family playpen of American theater,” wrote Times theater critic Ben Brantley.
The Odyssey’s L.A. premiere stars Ron Bottitta (Oppenheimer at Rogue Machine; Arsenic and Old Lace, Rank and Theatre in the Dark at the Odyssey) as the formerly abusive but now helpless Arnold; recent CalArts graduate Zack Gearing as prodigal son Isaac; Cynthia Kania (L.A. premieres of Bleacher Bums, Women Behind Bars; Theatricum Botanicum productions of The Crucible, The Chalk Garden, Richard the III, Joyce Carol Oates’ Tone Clusters and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as family matriarch Paige; and Puppett (guest star role on Catfish: The Untold Stories, supporting role in feature film Drifter) as the newly trans, gender queer Max.
The creative team includes set designer Thomas A. Walsh, lighting designer Katelan Braymer, costume designer Merrily Walsh and prop master Josh La Cour.
Taylor Mac (who uses “judy,” lowercase sic, not as a name but as a gender pronoun) is a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer. Judy’s work has been performed at Lincoln Center, the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Royce Hall, Guthrie Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, Sydney Opera House, American Repertory Theatre, Södra Teatern, Spoleto Festival, Curran Theater and MOMA, and at literally hundreds of other theaters, museums, music halls, opera houses, cabarets and festivals around the globe. Judy is the author of 17 full-length plays and performance pieces including A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama), The Lily’s Revenge, The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, The Young Ladies Of, Red Tide Blooming and The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac. Mac is the recipient of multiple awards including the Kennedy Prize, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Herb Alpert Award, Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, two Bessies, two Obies, a Helpmann Award, an Ethyl Eichelberger Award and a MacArthur Fellowship.
Bart DeLorenzo is the founding artistic director of the Evidence Room Theater. At the Odyssey, he has previously directed Kiss, Go Back to Where You Are, Day Drinkers, and A Number, as well as Evidence Room co-productions of The False Servant, Passion Play, Annapurna, Ivanov, Margo Veil and The Receptionist. Other recent work: Sugar Plum Fairy at South Coast Repertory and the Skylight; Stage Kiss, Death of the Author and Coney Island Christmas at the Geffen Playhouse; tokyo fish story, Fast Company, Doctor Cerberus and Shipwrecked! An Entertainment at South Coast Rep; Nomad Motel at Pittsburgh’s City Theatre; Women in Jeopardy! at the Ensemble Theater of Santa Barbara; Need to Know at Rogue Machine; The Projectionist at the Kirk Douglas/CTG; and The Night Watcher at Washington’s Studio Theatre. He is on the faculty at CalArts. He has numerous awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly and Backstage, and he is a recipient of the Alan Schneider Director Award.
Hir opens the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s 50th anniversary season. Founded in 1969 when Ron Sossi decided to demonstrate that experiment-oriented theater could have populist appeal and be fiscally solvent while maintaining the highest artistic standards, the Odyssey continues to explore, produce and present works on the forefront of contemporary theater art in its three-theater complex in West Los Angeles. Coming up in 2019: an exciting retrospective of seminal theater works that inspired the Odyssey at the time of its inception, a rich time of experimentation and exploration when the theatrical soil was fertile both here and abroad.
Performances of Hir take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Jan. 19 through March 17. On Sunday, Jan. 20 only, the performance will be at 5 p.m. with no 2 p.m. matinee. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Thursday, Jan 31; Wednesday, Feb. 20; and Wednesday, March 6, all at 8 p.m. Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Thursday, Jan. 31; Wednesday, Feb. 20; and Friday, Feb. 22. Tickets range from $32 to $37; there will be three “Tix for $10” performances, on Friday, Jan. 25; Thursday, Jan. 31; and Friday, Feb. 22. Friday, Feb. 22 is “College Night” and includes a pre-performance snacks on the patio for students as well as a post-performance discussion: $10 with valid student ID (use promo code COLLEGE). Additional discounts are available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30; call theater for details.
The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.