Taylor Mac’s disruptive and often gripping play is 3/4 of the way to being something great. But problems of physical pacing, plot and setting hold it back. Laundry lists of acronyms serve as unintentional parody of our own self-obsessed present. Mother’s bright demeanor does not ring true. Still quite an achievement.
Taylor Mac is having a mainstream moment. The New York artist’s new play HIR opened last night at Playwrights Horizons to an industrial strength NYT rave. I’m seeing the show Sunday. Glad I got tickets a while back before the sell out whoosh kicked in.
If you’ve been to a show at New York’s legendary new play super highway Playwrights Horizons, then you probably know just how important this place is to the American theatre.
Over and over and over again (and then again just because they can), PH delivers the goods that global theatregoers hunger after. Like right now – you’d be insane to miss the NYC premiere of the latest anti-complacency grenade from Brooklynite Bruce Norris, #TheQualms.
How do the folks at PH do it? Well, we’d tell you – but then we’d have to kill you. And killing people is wrong. PLUS – trade secrets like that are closely guarded. Suffice it to say, they just do it. And you better get down to PH ASAP if it’s been a while. Because you may have forgotten how good a night in the theatre can be. It is life itself.
But just as important as the quality of what you’ll see on stage at PH is the beauty, finesse, and yes drama of their digital presence – the show before the show. And after. When it comes to digital engagement with the audience, the quality of which is what determines whether an actual physical audience will show up to the show, the lil’ old theatre that could down on W. 42nd is an extraordinary, visionary leader. Which is just what you’d expect based on the shows they put on.
Hysterically entertaining, expertly written play for New York audience to die for on the hallowed PH stage. New cast every bit as good as Steppenwolf premiere. A night of contemporary theatre to remember and savor. John Procaccino as Gary is unforgettably good. Every night in the theatre should be this special.
In a straight ahead urban New York setting, most of the ingredients for a story are there in a worn and weary Bronx soup kitchen. Yet it’s never clear why we are being told this specific tale, and the events portrayed do not rise to a sufficient level of consequence.
A serious miss, despite several good songs. Huge amount of polish applied to paper-thin concept, but nothing below the surface. Dozens of random 2 minute long twee mini moments, with winks. Narrative twists, turns and back flips – that serve no purpose and do not emerge from material. Industrial strength cuteness.
The theatre world doesn’t necessarily get to have its fair share of intergalactic shit storms. So we have to work with what’s available. The Playwrights Horizons drama around Annie Baker’s new play is providing some good entertainment though.
Honestly, how this gentle and probing play, which admittedly is not perfect (come ON, Annie, would you make it PERFECT next time!), somehow raises the ire of the same New York theatregoers who routinely let scores of horrendous specimens off the hook each season, when they should be out on the street in protest burning tires (BENGAL TIGER anyone? MoFo WITH A HAT???), is a mystery.
If there is any contemporary play that will rankle the “blue hair divide” (formerly known more politically as the generation gap), this one is it. Ironically, at issue is not sex or violence or other offensive material – but rather the absence of action. And. The. Long. Silences.
I would suspect this style does not work well for many older theatre goers.
In a world of diminished expectations. There will be. Fewer. Words. But no one says more with less than Annie Baker. In one of the most interesting settings I can recall, three co-workers collect literal and metaphysical trash in a movie theatre and grasp at love. For three hours. Fabulous.