A provocative production of Lauren Yee’s “Hookman”
Lauren Yee is one of our rising playwrights who has written many plays that have appeared throughout the country. I saw a recent production of her “in a word” and I was spellbound by the dialogue. Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco says it best about her – “Yee has an acute ear for contemporary speech and applies a devilishly keen satiric eye to the manners and mores of her generation”. I could not agree with Robert more.
“Hookman” is an existential slasher comedy that has been workshopped since 2012 and it is finally getting its world premiere by the Encore Theatre Company at Z Space at 450 Florida Street in San Francisco. The 70 minute play still looks like a work in progress.
“Hookman” is about a young girl Lexi who is a freshman at University of Connecticut. She is home in California for the Thanksgiving holiday .Lexi and her friend Jess go for an In-N-Out Burger one night. While traveling in the car they hear a funny scraping sound. Could it be that Hookman is in the back seat of the car?
“Hookman” is about Lexi’s experience and the horrible thing that happen to her and her inability to process that. What we really don’t know is what fantasy is and what is real. The lives of the characters are grounded in commonplace realities of Facebook and texting in this fast pace farce. However, the Hookman, a ethereal slasher-movie figure, keeps turning up in the corner of Lexi’s vision.
The opening of the play shows Lexi and Jess in a frame of a car. The car is the liminal space of Lexi’s home world and the two are discussing just what two young girls would talk about which is mostly gossip. On opening night the two girls talked so fast much of the dialogue was unintelligible. (Probably opening night nerves). She returns to the University where she has homesickness and she struggles to find peace in her reality that of being a freshman in college.
Repetition and revision is a tool that the playwright employs throughout the play and we see the car scene several times as she recreates the scene over and over and over as it is source of trauma in her life. Is the Hookman real or just a figment of Lexi’s over worked imagination. Hookman the character appears throughout the play. You get the idea that Hookman lives within Lexi and he is her own projection of fear.
The farce is thrillingly directed by Becca Wolff and it features a great deal of bloodletting that is very realistic. Five actresses and one actor give good performances in his hair-raising tale. Taylor Jones and Sarah Matthes deliciously play Lexi and Jess all though they have to slow down those speech patterns in the first scene since it becomes unintelligible so many times. Katharine Chin who plays Lexi’s room mate Yoonji has little to do in this production but she is splendid in the smaller role. Jessica Lynn Carroll gives a great crazy performance as a fellow student. The lone male, Hookman, is played by Devin O’Brien and he skillfully does what he can to make his performance full of menace.
“Hookman” runs through May 30th at Z Space, 470 Florida Street in San Francisco
Information and tickets are at www.zspace.org
Photo by James Faerron