Playwrights Horizons presents a comedy about a former housewife forging a deliriously liberated world for her children: Isaac, a former Marine; and Max, who is sculpting a third-sex gender identity for hirself. More…
Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac has returned from the wars (under dubious circumstances) to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. His mom, Paige, is a former housewife, recently liberated from an oppressive marriage. With Isaac’s newly out transgender brother, the tender, jaded, Max, as her ally, Paige is on a crusade to dismantle the patriarchy. But in Taylor Mac’s sly, subversive comedy, annihilating the past doesn’t always free you from it.
"Mr. Mac’s audacious and uproarious black comedy, which opened at Playwrights Horizons in a crackling production, makes even the more extreme angst-amidst-the-chintz plays seem like demure drawing-room comedies of the 1950s...What is remarkable about 'Hir' is not its woolly, dark vision of an American family run amok, but the flawed and real humanity that simmers beneath all the surreal comedy." Full Review
"Taylor Mac’s absurd, antic, dark, affecting, and very funny family drama...'Hir' is only simple on the surface — Mac’s bid to write a conventional family drama in an unconventional way. It’s rich in allusion, layered with meaning, aesthetically and politically sly, and pervasively weird. If it’s unsettling, it’s not because of its weirdness, but because of Mac’s precise and accurate insights into each member of the family." Full Review
"Niegel Smith directs this horrific tale like a rollercoaster of the mad and insane...This cast is terrific, but it is Ms. Nielsen who is a tour de force of insanity that grounds this play. This performance is award winning, riveting and savage. This is a hard play to watch, but it is hypnotic in it’s brutality." Full Review
"Director Niegel Smith's production is intense and thoughtful, with a four-member cast that is collectively excellent...'Hir' isn't perfect (the speed of the who's-on-first-style word-and-action repetition is oftentimes wearying), but the play is sharp, shocking, and really, really funny while also vividly explorative of the depth of human emotions. Mac has crafted a piece that defies labels and categorization. 'Hir' is an audacious, important work that won't be easily forgotten." Full Review
"Mac’s tragicomedy couldn’t be more gender-laden, and yet it’s really furor that drives 'Hir.' It offers no easy answers but serves up lots of questions. It also balances comedy with drama in a proportion that just about always seems right. Director Niegel Smith gets excellent performances not just from Nielsen but from the rest of the cast as well." Full Review
"A superb new play by Taylor Mac...Taylor Mac treats his eccentric, yet somehow mainstream, characters with humor and respect. Under Niegel Smith’s direction, the ensemble is flawless. 'Hir' is a marvelous and must-be-seen play." Full Review
"Every actor plays the assigned part to perfection…The audience knows from the first that there’s something about the situation that is unspoken, and that this family is a volcano getting ready to erupt. Spectators have walked willingly into a nightmare. It’s up to us to decide whether or not we feel like enjoying the long day’s journey. There are many important questions raised." Full Review
"Mac’s relentlessly seriocomic dialogue is exquisitely crafted and the play is structurally accomplished...'Hir' is a provocative and often unsettling work that boldly explores present day issues in the United States with grim flair." Full Review
"Actress Kristine Nielsen is perhaps the stage’s greatest portrayer of 'eccentric' women, off-kilter souls who both make us erupt in hysterics and feel ever-so-slightly-bad for them. But Nielsen can also be powerful, heartbreaking, and vulnerable – and she’s all of the above, plus magnificently eccentric, in Taylor Mac’s audacious new play 'Hir' at Playwrights Horizons...Nielsen and her excellent co-stars make sure that, even through some uproarious laughter, we are all listening." Full Review
"Change, physical and otherwise, is at the center of 'Hir'... 'Hir' has a lot of ideas—necessary ideas, especially when it comes to flinging open closets in the 'trans' world—which spill over the edges of the play, but I wouldn’t take much out in order to make the show dramaturgically tighter or easier to absorb. The rudeness of its form is part of its power: you can’t build a clearer future without making a mess of the past." Full Review
"'Hir' is a funny, sharp, cutting play about family, gender, power and America. It is a play about the death of the patriarchy and the benefits and costs. It is about the mythology of the American Dream and the politics of today. The entire cast drives the play forward with breakneck performances." Full Review
"The writing has such verve and acid wit that it carries us along on contrasting tides of hilarity and anger right to the powerful, if open-ended, finale...'Hir' is hardly a perfectly constructed play - the ending, while gripping, leaves unclear how any of the characters can go forward - but it represents a noted talent striking out in a new direction to considerable effect...Mac's comic fury is more apposite than it at first seems." Full Review
"Patently metaphorical and threaded with nervy satire, 'Hir' at times suggests a modern inversion of David Rabe’s 'Sticks and Bones'...It has a ringing voice all its own, however, and formidable broad-mindedness in its sympathies (and its jabs). The upstairs theater at Playwrights Horizons may be too small for the aesthetic of Niegel Smith’s production...Some of the acting can seem overscaled. (Imperfection and excess, in fairness, are part of Mac’s artistic creed.)" Full Review
"Nielsen excels at playing eccentric—and often hilarious—women whose antics mask a deep yearning to be taken seriously. And there are moments when her Paige is almost frightening...The rest of the cast is a little uneven...I found these plays to be as depressing as all hell...And yet, both 'The Humans' and 'Hir' continued to haunt me in the weeks since I've seen them. I'm guessing that they'll be frontrunners when it comes time to award next year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama." Full Review
"There is absolutely nothing subtle about 'Hir.' The ideas in the script are there to slap us and shake us out of our comfort zone...Mac is too perceptive a writer to pretend to have the answers to any of the questions asked in the show, and director Niegel Smith takes full advantage of this by staging the play as a John Waters/Tennessee Williams hybrid, in which powerful symbolism is only subverted by the vulgarity through which it’s expressed." Full Review
"Based on novelty alone, I found it fascinating...It’s a fine play, if at times difficult to get through while watching Paige (a terrific Kristine Nielsen) so loudly control the room after decades of staying quiet. I look forward to seeing more work in this newly emerging genre over the coming years." Full Review
"In his other work, Mac’s maximalism has almost always paid off, not only in terms of gorgeous maquillage and feats of endurance but in his ambition for theater as a communal tool. But here, the huge kaleidoscope of attempted analysis — gender, class, political, aesthetic — makes it difficult to track his intentions. The somewhat chaotic production by Niegel Smith also gets in the way." Full Review
"Taylor Mac’s intelligent nonetheless deliberately disorienting new play…If we don’t know either to giggle or cry during this spectacle, we think that’s how Mac likes it…An outrageous kaleidoscope of attempted research — gender, class, political, culture — creates a formidable lane to his intentions. The rather pell-mell prolongation by Niegel Smith also gets in a way." Full Review
"Mac clearly has serious things on his mind here, and his anarchic take on the kitchen-sink family drama, although hardly revelatory provides some amusement. But the thematic points quickly become repetitious...Director Niegel Smith lets the pace drag considerably, despite the play's running time of under two hours. On the other hand, there's Nielsen...Her sterling performance, and the fine work by the rest of the ensemble, nearly make up for the play's hollow posturing." Full Review
"'Hir' is a wildly ambitious attempt to create a cohesive whole out of a merger of issues…Unfortunately it's not consistently edgy and clearly detailed enough to make 'Hir' as momentously deep and far-reaching a deconstruction of conventional family dramas as it wants to be...The problem is that the whole concept fizzles in the depressingly dark and essentially go-nowhere second act." Full Review
"The dialogue abounds in jargon-laced gender identity talk, but for all the spirited comic energy with which it’s presented, a didactic aroma wafts over its satirical attack on conventional family relationships, the patriarchy’s downfall, and the myth of the gender binary...Everything is so overblown that you feel like you’ve wandered into a real nut house; if Ms. Nielsen had to interact with real people on the outside she’d be in a straitjacket before you could say Jack Nicholson." Full Review
"Under Smith's care, all of the actors are on point…But to what end? For the fascinating upending of the traditional living-room family comedy that Mac has effected, the underlying message is terrifyingly bleak…What's here is incomplete, a photo of something potentially interesting that is half-developed at best…It's impossible, then, to know exactly what to make of 'Hir.' It's so uncompromising that alternating reactions of adoration and revulsion would not be surprising." Full Review
"This play might be called a kitchen sink drama, but the sink is filled with dirty dishes and the drama is covered by a thick layer of absurdist comedy...A certain amount of chaos is necessary to the play, but there was too much for my taste. Any play that offers Kristine Nielsen a starring role is worth seeing in my book, but this play puts that to the test. David Zinn’s set is a cluttered wonder. Gabriel Berry’s costumes suit their characters well. Director Niegel Smith’s direction is assur... Full Review
"The very conventionality of the box Mac has packed them in feels like a provocation, a trigger for the events that are about to occur—and it’s a credit to Mac that despite the currents of rage swirling through the family, the play is still frequently hilarious. At the same time, the absurdity feels spread over a hollow core; once you take away the surface layer of chaos, there’s not much left. The characters seem mostly built of their tics." Full Review
See it if you want a thrilling, unflinching, and big-hearted entry into the big questions we need to ask about queerness, the left, and the future
Don't see it if you want something more conservative
See it if you are interested in excellent performances of thought-provoking, relevant and resonant work.
Don't see it if you're looking for a light night of theatre. Or are too conservative to have an open mind.
See it if you're a fan of Taylor Mac. Or if you're willing to have your preconceived ideas of family drama punctured in the most amazing way.
Don't see it if you're transphobic, misogynist or in any way looking for a safe experience that doesn't challenge you in any way.
See it if you are interested in gender identity. One of the most brilliant plays I have seen in the past ten years in NYC.
Don't see it if you don't want to be open to thinking about things in a new and different way.
See it if edgy, black comedy about modern families falling apart is appealing. Excellent performances and a twisted script make for great theatre.
Don't see it if you're a fan of traditional family values.
See it if you are a fan of Taylor Mac's work, you want your assumptions about gender challenged, you want a breathless display of theatrical heroism.
Don't see it if You don't want your assumptions about gender challenged; you are triggered by issues of abuse, or can't handle someone simulating vomiting.
See it if you are comfortable exploring issues of gender and sexuality / you like a dark, dark comedy that will still make you laugh
Don't see it if you are stuck on the gender binary / you are looking for simple answers
See it if you want to see a great new play that is thoughtfully written and deals with contemporary issues.
Don't see it if you don't like absurdist theatre, dark humour and stories dealing with mental illness.
See it if This is not a show for everyone. I was confused and uncomfortable at first, but the second act crystallized everything.
Don't see it if You're easily offended, or are uncomfortable with gay or transgender topics.
See it if you want to see a family drama like nothing you've seen, dealing with serious subjects with dark humor and wonderful acting.
Don't see it if you have a problem with plays centering questions of gender, suppression and moral issues.
See it if you like to have your biases challenged by theatrical events. Also if you want to see the funniest 30 minutes of theater on stage right now.
Don't see it if you have no interest in a fractured look at female empowerment & gender issues. It's not for everyone.
See it if u want original personas and inspired family disfunction. Beyond dysfunction -- what's the phrase? I had a high-bouncing ball of a time.
Don't see it if Kristine Nielsen is beyond your appreciation. Hey, who are you? She's hilarious, toughing, truly fantastic. Great cast and prod all-round.
See it if want to see characters you haven't seen before and a difficult topic handled in a way you wouldn't expect. Dis-functionality at its best.
Don't see it if don't like to think too much. You have to see beyond the setup to feel the painful situation they are all in. Although funny it's not easy
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