photo by Hunter Canning
Written by Liza Birkenmeier
Directed by Kristy Dodson
As if planning a career in quirkiness, high school senior Bit (Reyna de Courcy) stomps about her slovenly house bedecked in a motley ensemble of platform shoes, mismatched athletic gear and retro wigs of various colors. She looks like refugee from an Ionesco play by way of a vintage MTV pop video, but it’s hard to blame her for wearing her oddness on her sleeve. She’s just reacting to the topsy-turvy world in which she finds herself. Raised in a cult, Bit escaped with her parents to Scandinavia, and has now been placed in the low-pressure Florida home of laconic hospital worker Otto (Patrena Murray). Down in the dumps after having been left by her girlfriend, Otto has let her house go to hell and shows little interest in anything other than donuts and whisky. Authorities believe the gifted but low-functioning Bit is likely to thrive in this mellow environment. But Otto, it turns out, is a little too unobtrusive for her young ward’s liking. Once in a while, it would be nice if Otto set some rules, or at least expressed concern when Bit stays out late and doesn’t call. While these tensions simmer, Otto receives a surprise visit from the Pigman (Ryan Wesley Stinnett), a new media mogul whose right arm ends in a hoof rather than a hand and who is prone to fits of oinking when things don’t go his way. Oozing smarm, the porcine impresario, accompanied by his masked assistant Missy (ToriAnne DiFilippo), talks the baffled Otto into participating in an “exposé on middle-aged childless single women.” Bit, meanwhile, enlists the help of Claymation prodigy Wilkin Rush George III (Samuel Im) in creating a “cross-disciplinary” thesis project on the woes of women in colonial-era Canada. The endeavor hits a snag when Bit becomes less interested in her story than in having sex with Wilkin. Mayhem and entropy ensue, along with an intriguing mashup of musical genres from Bit’s post-alternative rock band.
Director Kristy Dodson takes a refreshingly deadpan approach, allowing playwright Liza Birkenmeier’s buzzword-laden dialogue and oddball plot twists to elicit laughs without excess underlining. The cast rises to the task, with De Courcy finding the deeper tones and subtler emotions beneath Bit’s teen vocal fry. Murray, who manages to make Otto likable despite her resigned moodiness, provides an apt foil for both de Courcy’s adolescent edginess and Stinnett’s smiling tyranny. Im vibrates with the naïve arrogance of teenage ambition, while DiFilippo’s Missy communicates effectively without speaking. You-Shin Chen’ scenic design and Max Archimedes Levitt’s costumes help create a wonky universe that blends the flights of fancy with the grimy reality of downscale American life. THE HOLLOWER runs a bit long, and its Absurdist energy loses momentum in the later scenes, but the show’s eccentric bounce, and the fun house mirror Birkenmeier holds up to contemporary culture make it a ride worth taking.
THE HOLLOWER continues through June 9, 2018 at the Access Theater, 380 Broadway, New York, New York. Tickets https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3389611?cookie_header=1