Riotous Family Dysfunction Reign in the Vancouver Production of Hir

Actors from Pi Theatre’s Hir. Clockwise from left: Jordan Fowlie, Victor Dolhai, Deb Williams, and Andrew Wheeler. Photo by Emily Cooper.

At this time of year, as we transition into winter, a little bit of dark levity seems highly fitting. Vancouver’s theatre scene continues to impress with new productions that push the boundaries of the conventional and the expected.

The American nuclear family gets an upending and a wickedly comic skewering in an upcoming production at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex. Get set for a wild ride through family strife, post-war turmoil, and gender identity explorations. This certainly is not your typical warm and fuzzy holiday on-stage show!

From November 22 to December 8, 2018, Pi Theatre is mounting the Canadian premiere of Hir, by American playwright Taylor Mac, at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex (823 Seymour Street).

At a socio-cultural/political moment of flux and shifting norms, Hir is incredibly relevant and timely. We’re no longer in the artificially idealized family of The Waltons and Leave It to Beaver. Instead, this black comedy takes the dysfunctional family way beyond The Simpsons and Family Guy. Into the mix of family conflict, the play throws in PTSD, changed gender roles, and a teen coming-out narrative. Whoah. Talk about complicated dinner table conversation.

Jordan Fowlie and Victor Dolhai in Pi Theatre’s Hir. Photo by Emily Cooper.

The premise of Hir is compelling. Directed by Pi Theatre’s artistic director, Richard Wolfe, the production opens with Isaac (played by Victor Dolhai) returning from military service in Afghanistan to find the seemingly idyllic family he left behind completely altered and in disarray. His mother is feeding his now diapered father estrogen while dressing him up as a drag clown. His father (Arnold, played by Andrew Wheeler) has suffered a stroke and finds himself subject to the whims of a newly empowered wife (Paige, played by Deborah Williams) suddenly vengeful after years of emotional and physical abuse, and his brother, Max (played by Jordan Fowlie), is now living as a transgender adolescent.

Andrew Wheeler in Pi Theatre’s Hir. Photo by Emily Cooper.

What ensures is absurdist, comic, and tragic all at once as Isaac and the rest of his family must grapple with these new norms and consider what it means to be individuals as well as members of a still surviving, yet metamorphosed family. Each of the characters, whether it be Arnold who has lost mobility and his previously subservient wife, or Isaac who must deal with the trauma of war, is in identity crisis and transformation. The question is: who will they become to themselves and to each other when the dust settles?

Actors from Pi Theatre’s Hir. Clockwise from Top left: Deb Williams, Victor
Dolhai, Andrew Wheeler, Jordan Fowlie. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Hir has received considerable critical claim, lauded by The New York Times as an “audacious and uproarious black comedy” and awarded the Best of Play of the Year (Sydney Theatre Award). It’s been produced in forty-eight places around the world, such as Chicago (Steppenwolf Theatre) and Washington, D.C. (Woolly Mammoth Theatre). This mounting of it is part of the SeeMore Theatre Initiative, which supports four resident theatre companies at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex.

Tickets start at $28. Further info and tickets can be found on-line.

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