“Hir” at Arts West, presented in collaboration with Intiman Theatre

It’s certainly not my family! And if it’s the family of the future, I’m glad I won’t be part of it. But it’s a family that electrifies the stage. The play grabs your gut, and the acting intensifies the experience.

Look at the word “Hir.” Note that it’s a combination of “him” and “her.” Playwright Taylor Mac suggests that there could be a future when sex roles and gender stereotypes simply won’t exist. Ideally there will be a melding. But getting there demands a war, and in this play it’s a gender war, a family war: a war against those assumptions and stereotypes.

Onto the stage and into his home blunders the newly discharged soldier/son Isaac (Evan Barrett). He’s stunned! He’s seen battlefields, but he’s never seen anything like the home that awaits him. It’s a combat zone. It’s in total disarray with clothing, detritus, kitchenware and garbage strewn over the entire stage. (Kudos to set designers Julia Welch and Timothy White Eagle for creating this almost unbelievable mess.)

Isaac’s father, dressed in a nightgown, his face smeared with lipstick, sits drooling in one of the few chairs that are upright. In comes Isaac’s “sister” (Adrian Kljucec) who appears to have had a sex change. Ruling over this catastrophe is his mother waging her war against the assumptions and stereotypes of a male dominated society. To her this unbelievable mess is definitely not a disaster. It is, perhaps, the cataclysmic requirement necessary to achieve gender-neutral society.

Gretchen Krich as Mom, the orchestrator of this revolting mess, is spunky, determined, and single minded. She thrives in the chaos she has deliberately let happen. Her husband, the drooling, seemingly demented, powerless male doesn’t do so well. It’s a terrible character to play, and Charles Leggett plays it brilliantly. I almost couldn’t bear to look at him.

So . . . have we here a look to the future? This production will certainly force you to think about that.

Through March 25 at Arts West Theatre, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, 206-938-0339.

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