NAN is a cis woman, actor, and probably a jerk.

NORA is an actor and director. Also probably also a jerk.

NORA

So what’s in your pockets?

NAN

So we should say that we both saw a preview.

This was the first Simpatico show I have ever seen, and I haven’t really worked with any of the people involved, so my pockets were pretty empty. I saw an interpretation of a Taylor Mac show at Williamstown that was really lovely and I’ve seen a few talks by judy as well and really enjoyed them. You?

NORA

I’ve seen a few Simpatico shows and I always love what they produce, even if I don’t always love the production. I know a few of the performers and read the synopsis of the play provided online, but I had no idea what to expect.

NAN

I thought from what I heard that it was going to be really ABOUT gender and I don’t know if that’s really the heart of the play, which is kinda great as well, that there’s a play with a trans person that is so central that doesn’t really have to be about their transness.

NORA

I think Taylor Mac is onto something. The piece is educational without being patronizing. I think Max says something about that in the play, how not everybody is as “woke” as Paige and Max are, so they have to be understanding. Nice to hear, when we as a society, are always trying to put people down for one reason or another.

NAN

For sure. Though of course Paige says multiple times that Max gets very displeased if you don’t respect hir pronouns. It just felt really good to see a baby boomer that is making real effort to be good about trans issues, rather than the unfortunately common reality of older generations being thoroughly confused or just incapable of respecting pronouns and trans people in general. I loved watching Paige educate Isaac in that scene

NORA

I wonder how much of her insisting that Max gets upset was just for her own benefit, which is a nice question to have. I LOVED that scene.

NAN

And with a fridge alphabet and the extendable pointer, no less

NORA

And they had run out of “H”s so somebody cut out an “H” written on a piece of paper, attached with a magnet, to be another magnet. Amazing. However, I think whatever good things the character has to say in the play were trampled upon by delivery. But we’ll talk about that in a minute.

NAN

What did you think about the design?

NORA

I LOVED THE SET.

NAN

Christopher Haig’s set was fantastic. And the set dressing, more specifically. Dang.

NORA

So specific and surprising. Every nook and cranny was a fun surprise. Like, in the fridge, there were Christmas lights….. and a jug of milk.

NAN

Yeah! And the detail in the crappy old wallpaper, with the seams all gross and moist? The sink with running water too! Though there seemed to be some technical difficulties there in the beginning.

NORA

I’ll forgive any practical problems in a preview. The curtain for the set shift being hidden in the pile of dirty clothes? So good. Even the sound design was specific and surprising. The sizzling of the chicken Isaac was cooking sticks out in my head.

NAN

Oh god I loved that bit. I really thought he had accidentally grabbed a bit of the theater at first. Gorgeous. And the radio over the fridge with the special speaker in there? The little weird local radio interludes, with the music.

NORA

Top to bottom, the design was a win for me.

NAN

I also thought LeVonne Lindsay’s costumes were super successful. Maybe excluding Paige’s dress? It seemed maybe a little nicer than she would be able to manage or care for.

NORA

I agree. The costumes felt like Simpsons costumes. Non descriptive, but character defining.

NAN

I mean, in the interview with Taylor Mac included in the program, judy says that it was intended to be a kitchen sink drama, and I think the costumes show each family role very well

NORA

Gotta love when a kitchen sink drama has a working kitchen sink.

NAN

My only small gripe when it comes to costumes is that I don’t think Max would have had the tattoos that ze had, that looked more than a couple years old. I think I would have had those covered with makeup if I were designing.

NORA

I bet they were going for “rebellious kid” so they didn’t cover Max’s tattoos, but you’re right.

NAN

So yes, gorgeous design choices all around

NORA

What did you think of the performances?

NAN

Bit of a mixed bag for sure. I thought Kevin Meehan was lovely.

NORA

Kevin really had moments of beauty and truth. Isaac was the one who seemed to be rooted in reality the most.

NAN

Yeah. He definitely anchored the production. Which is unfortunate because it really needs to be Paige that holds the show down.

NORA

Oh yeah. She needs to be the heart. If we don’t like her, why would we EVER side with her.

NAN

For sure. Of course it’s a really challenging role to begin with, but in the end, for me she just came off as a jerk.

NORA

Such. A. Jerk. I liked Arnold (the father) better when he talked less, because you could just see his pain, but I thought he was so good at being on and not pulling focus.

NAN

I mean, they’re a family of jerks. But she just didn’t seem to have anything to come home to, emotionally .

NORA

Agreed.

NAN

Her emotional objectives just seemed to have stemmed from her experience being abused by her husband. Which was certainly powerful. But it was missing the emotional center of why she keeps going and trying to make things better.

NORA

Of course. It’s amazing to see the man who everybody was afraid of turning into a drooling infant and how they dealt with that, but you’re right. I think the piece is trying to be something like Charles Busch’s Die, Mommie, Die! but all of the performances didn’t reach that level of camp, so it wasn’t quite as successful.

NAN

I don’t know if campy would have really been it.  Maybe the intention might have been more in the level of trying to find where camp lives when it comes home for Thanksgiving and has to have real world responsibilities. With a healthy dose of poetry in there.

NORA

That’s kind of what Charles Busch does. And it’s HYPER specific. Which was the element missing from this particular production of Hir for me.

NAN

I’m actually not familiar with his work.

NORA

It’s pretty great. John Waters and Charles Busch are legends because they turned those who are the jokes into the people making the jokes. And Divine, even when being filthy and eating shit, is still a full person with an emotional core. But the thing with effective camp is, if you’re going to be filthy or “bad”, be the best at it.

NAN

Yeah. I wanted the performances to have the crazy specificity that the set did.

NORA 

Hir isn’t filthy by any means, but it deals with pretty bad people and starts off at an 11, style-wise. The shadow puppet show about the husband’s affair, for example, was a missed opportunity. It was cute, but it could have been really powerful or funny.

NAN

Yes! Agreed. I do think the play itself is really beautiful. I want more of that.

NORA

I want to read more by Taylor Mac, in general.

NAN

I just felt like there was a lot that ended up being a bit skated over, textually, on top of everything

NORA

Direction wise, What did you think?

NAN

Seemed pretty solid? Everyone seemed pretty much in the same world. I don’t know Eppchez! or eir work at all but it seems like directing them with the group might have been a challenge. Ey seemed a bit out of eir depth?

NORA

Eppchez! tends to write/devise more. I actually think ey mentioned in eir’s bio that this is a return to scripted work after a long time off.

NAN

Eppchez! came off as rather uncomfortable onstage and with the script, yeah.

NORA

The only other direction bump I felt was the play revs up a few times and then loses steam. The scene between Isaac and Arnold was nice, but the momentum built wasn’t sustained to the end of Act I, and then picking up again after an intermission was a little rough.

NAN

Yeah. there were for sure some stagnant moments

NORA

I was a bit unsatisfied, but I’m sure a lot of kinks will be worked out by opening. I’m all about a story created to shake up and educate the squares a bit.

NAN

Yeah! The world that was created and the shake-up bits were really lovely, and I really enjoyed those parts that I was so unused to seeing and the weird uncommon feelings they brought up, but it didn’t really come together in the end.

NORA

OH! I read in that Taylor Mac interview (smartly included in the program by, I’m assuming, dramaturg Erin Washburn), that judy was interested in grappling with masculinity. Kind of brilliant that the most masculine person onstage was Paige… the female identifying person.

NAN

Yes! And the back and forth between her and her no longer alpha husband was really interesting to watch. Generally the whole usurped-tyrant story of the dad.

NORA

And even Arnold’s fits of “masculine rage” were pretty pathetic. And then when Paige goes to do his same fits, they’re equally cringe-worthy.

NAN

Yes! I love how Mac manages to turn every narrative we think we’re used to seeing right on its head.

NORA

Simpatico, why do you always do this to me? Why do you pick so many good plays and then miss the landing oh so slightly.

NAN

I mean, at the end of the day, better than choosing meh plays and not taking the risk. But it’s frustrating for sure.

NORA

You’re right.

NAN

I’d rather see them shoot high, for sure.

 

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