Family, Gender Identity, and Power: “HIR” at the 5 & Dime Theatre


Jacksonville’s 5 & Dime Theatre opened its production of “HIR” on December 1, 2017; it will remain on stage through December 17. This provocative and sometimes hilarious comedy/drama explores domestic issues of family, gender identity, and power. Advisory, R-rated for language and sexual situations.

Sitting in your seat before the action begins, you will be viewing an interior that includes a living room and kitchen, and looks like it was inspired by an episode from TV’s “Hoarders.”  Piles of dirty clothes fill the length of the stage, and old soda cans lie on the floor. There is clutter everywhere!

As the play begins, you see an invalid with a multi-colored clown’s wig; his face is covered with garish makeup and he is dressed in a nightgown. This is Arnold, the family’s father, who has suffered a stroke and communicates slowly, one labored word at a time. The role is portrayed by Bill Ratliff, a local theatrical dynamo for the past thirty years. His outstanding resume includes LBJ in “All the Way,” Oscar Wilde in “Gross Indecencies,” Salieri in “Amadeus” and Monster in “Young Frankenstein.” He recently received a Thespian Award for Lifetime Achievement from Players by the Sea.

Actor Karen Garrett makes her 5 & Dime debut as Paige, his wife and mother of their two children. Things have changed for this dysfunctional family since Arnold’s stroke. Paige has adapted an eccentric approach to day-to-day responsibilities and activities; she’s found freedom from routine and boring chores. She frequently marches around the house in mismatched clothing, waving both arms wildly as she shouts out demands and commands. Her performance is a tour de force. She has an extensive resume, with most of her stage work done at Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre, a group that she co-founded a number of years ago. We recall seeing her on stage at ABET in the past playing the lead in several Russian plays.

Isaac, the family’s son, unexpectedly returns home after three tours of duty as a Marine assigned to Mortuary Services in Afghanistan.  Although conscientious about his job responsibilities, he received a dishonorable discharge due to drug usage. As portrayed by Kyle Geary, he looks very much like a military man, is believable, and is very likeable. Geary was last seen on local stages at ABET as a reporter in “Floyd Collins.”

Isaac can’t understand what has happened to his family. His little sister Maxine is now Max, a transgendering male played brilliantly by Arianna Rodriquez, a senior at the University of North Florida.

The second act shows the effect of Isaac’s attempts to bring order and stability to his family home. We also learn of issues related to his father’s abusive behavior prior to his illness. The show is fast-paced, and will leave you breathless with shifts between comedy and tragedy.

If you’re curious about the title “HIR,” Max is using the gender-neutral pronouns ‘Ze’ and ‘Hir’ instead of ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘him,’ or ‘her.’ And we will leave the ending for you to discover.

This is Josh Waller’s debut as a director entirely on his own, and he skillfully directs a diverse and accomplished cast. You too will appreciate Waller’s relentless pace and the unfettered performances of the actors.

The production crew included Josh Waller (Director); Abigail Saenz (Assistant Director); Kat Mcleod Raspa (Stage Manager);  Nicole Anderson (Lighting Design); Lee Hamby (Production Manager & Set Design); Katie Cress (Light Board Operator& Sound Design); Jetti Godwin (Light & Sound Board Operator); Sarah Stansel (Properties); Christian Cabrera (Costume Design); and  Jetti Godwin & Luke Elmore (Tech Crew).

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.