Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Emily Townley and Malic White
Photo Courtesy of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Hir, the play by Taylor Mac now at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, is easier to discuss than to describe. Whether it's a family drama with absurdist elements or a wildly comic consideration of people unable to reach common ground—or both—above all it's a play that will stay with the viewer in all its complexities.

Director Shana Cooper has guided four talented performers to create an ensemble or characters who, despite their personal traumas and tortured interactions, are still members of a family.

As the audience enters, Misha Kachman's kitchen and living room set is a riot of clutter: heaps of laundry on the floor, stacks of unwashed dishes in and around the sink, insulation visible in the side and back walls, and Christmas lights and tinsel hanging from the ceiling. Just as astonishing is Arnold (Mitch Hébert), a garishly made-up man wearing a pink nightgown and a rainbow-colored clown wig, as his wife Paige (Emily Townley) watches him warily.

The epic disorder in the house is (part of) Paige's revenge on Arnold, who was a brutally controlling husband and father until he had a stroke a year earlier. She has found fulfillment in a career and homeschooling her younger child, Max (Malic White), a transgender man who uses the personal pronouns "ze" and "hir." Then Isaac (Joseph J. Parks), Arnold and Paige's adult son, a traumatized veteran, returns home from a term overseas recovering soldiers' bodies, expecting things to be as they were and unsettled by the changes.

In simple terms, the dynamic is male dominance against diversity, order versus self-expression, but Mac takes it to dizzying levels that ultimately involve roleplaying and extravagant costumes (designed by Ivania Stack).

All four of the actors make indelible impressions: Townley propels the action like a tornado; Hébert brings total conviction to his role; Parks shows the damage Isaac has suffered despite his efforts to hide it; and White shines as the one family member who may survive to find a better future.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
May 22nd - June 18th, 2017
By Taylor Mac
Paige: Emily Townley
Arnold: Mitch Hébert
Isaac: Joseph J. Parks
Max: Malic White
Directed by Shana Cooper
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or

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