“Hir” – Stray Cat Theatre and “The Scottsboro Boys” – Phoenix Theatre, The Black Theatre Troupe, and ASU

Theater Review – May 1, 2017


Stray Cat Theatre, Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

Dysfunctional families exist throughout America but you’ve never met one quite like the Connor’s who populates Taylor Mac’s often hard-to-watch play “Hir” (Here) that is presented superbly by Stray Cat Theatre.  The dynasty is headed by stroke-impacted father, Arnold, a sexually ambiguous son, Max, a military family man, Isaac, and Paige, the twisted matriarch.

Paige heads the floundering family and her “I don’t care…” attitude has taken over her once conventional Central California Valley household.  The play opens in the Connor’s messy enclave that Paige refuses to clean.  Her once productive husband has evolved into a flamboyant zombie in a pink dress who Paige rules.  Max isn’t sure of his sexuality but thinks he’s gay.  After a stint in the Afghanistan war, Issac arrives home expecting the normalcy of his once sane family that is now riddled with chaotic confusion.

There is frustration at Paige’s unhealthy controls but she never allows anyone to set themselves free of her domination  Of course, it’s hard to believe that such a family exists but the playwright shows how easily bizarre shenanigans can take over a gullible group of isolated misfits.

In inexperienced hands, this play could bomb but the four-person cast headed by Cathy Dresbach’s superb Paige and guided by director Ron May’s sure and steady staging, turns the play into a stunning eye-opener.  It’s certainly not a fun show but the play’s impact and the importance of always being involved in the world is vividly addressed in this tense collection of bizarre family actions.

Dresbach is measured at one moment, irrational at others but she always conveys the character’s wacky irrationality.  It’s quite a performance and Dresbach may be the only local actor who could create such a character with such perfect irrational believably.  Gary David Keast plays the dress-wearing Arnold with mindless bitterness.  KJ Williams’ confused Max will no doubt turn into a crazy like his mother.  Andy Cahoon’s Isaac is the family’s rational character who handles his off-the-wall family with relative control.

“Hir” reminds us of how easily people can get stuck with unconventional thoughts and it earns four stars out of five and continues through May 13 at the Tempe Center for the Arts where the show’s opening night was plagued by an overbooked facility where parking was impossible.  To order tickets, call the Tempe Center for the Arts box office at 480-350-2TCA or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: B

Phoenix Theatre, The Black Theatre Troupe, and ASU, Hormel Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

A word about the Phoenix Theatre, Black Theatre Troupe, and ASU’s magnificently moving “The Scottsboro Boys” that explored nine African-American Alabama boys wrongly accused of crimes they never committed.  This important Kander and Ebb musical graphically exposes Southern inhumanity that still exists today.  Sadly, this fantastic production closed over the weekend.

Grade: A