Dramashop staged reading ‘Hir’ brings the absurd to Erie


According to ancient Greek philosophy, the only constant in life is change.
This proverb played out in full force on the Dramashop’s stage over the weekend with the opening of “Hir.”
“Hir” (pronounced “here”) is a staged reading that explores family relationships, adapting to change and the search for self.
The Connor family is the microcosm through which these themes are presented.
Isaac Connor is returning home from active combat in Afghanistan after being dishonorably discharged from the military.
Coming home, he is prepared to walk through the door as if three years haven’t passed.
He’s expecting to be welcomed by his docile mother, Paige, stand his ground against his often abusive father, Arnold, and hang out with his younger sister.
Instead, Isaac returns to a wheelchairbound, mentally ailing father, a mother who is ruling the roost and taking revenge for years of abuse and a little brother instead of a little sister.
Isaac, played by Gannon University student Brian Bowersox, struggles to adapt to his changing family members who are going about their new lives as if nothing is out of the ordinary while also coping with PTSD.
Bowersox, a junior communication arts major, is one of four cast members in the small, intimate production.
While he has performed in several Schuster Theatre plays, including an international theater festival in Scotland, this is his first staged reading.
Staged readings are a form of theater without sets, costumes or stage movement. The actors read from scripts and are typically seated.
Staged readings are theater of the mind; the power of the script and the talent of the readers are what carry these performances.
“The goal of staged readings is to think about what’s being said, and not necessarily to be entertained,” Bowersox said.
Though entertainment may not be the driving force, “Hir” certainly packs in plenty of it.
The script, written in the style of absurd realism, is dripping with dark humor and wry observations.
According to the playwright Taylor Mac, “Absurd realism is simply realistic characters in a realistic circumstance that is so extreme it is absurd.”
The title of the play comes from the gender-neutral pronoun “hir,” which some folks choose to use instead of “him” or “her.”
Will Perron, a local high school student, is reading for the role of Isaac’s little sibling, Max.
“This is the first real theater production I’m in, so it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking,” said Perron. “I’m glad there is a role of a transgender character, being trans myself, so this is a really cool experience.”
Megan Hamm, a 2018 Gannon graduate, is also making her directorial debut with this production.
“Hir” will take the stage again at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The theater is located on the second floor of the Renaissance Centre, 1001 State St. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
For more details, visit www.dramashop.org.

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