Hookman: Existential Thriller for the 21st Century Girl

 

Joe Kidawski and Erin Butcher, Photo credit: Company One

Hookman by Lauren Yee, Company One, Boston Center for the Arts Hall A, 3/23/12-4/14/12, http://www.companyone.org/Season13/Hookman/synopsis.shtml.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) Lexi (Erin Eva Butcher) appears to be the only one in Hookman aware she’s in slasher movie.

With reason to believe a masked murderer (Joseph Kidawski) is responsible for the death of her friend Jess (Nicole Prefontaine), she attempts to protect her college roommate (Pearl Shin) and various others from his hook. Everyone else in her life seems to think she’s in a comedy, however, gabbing about Facebook, otters, and the minutiae of the everyday for a college freshman.  The ludicrous result is a bittersweet tragicomedy, literally soaked with blood and heart.

Playwright Lauren Yee’s mix of gore and dark humor may put off squeamish audiences.  If the idea of a theater with a Splash Zone for fake blood is something you find distasteful, Hookman may be a hard sell.

For the adventurous, though, the story is worth it. The dialogue is organic, funny, and sad, with characters struggling to communicate deep troubles with the sometimes-limited vocabulary of the Facebook generation.

When first introduced, Lexi and her companions feel like feather light, gossipy caricatures.  Their problems in school and with each other are revealed onion-like, however, with layers of personal difficulties unraveled as a hook-handed murderer intimidates their every move.  Without the Hookman pursuing her, Lexi’s own trials as a young woman exist and they, alone, are frightening enough.

This existential angst, however, is cleverly packaged with comedy.  Choreographed fight scenes, online petitions, and Mariah Carrey lighten the play considerably when misery and gore threaten to weigh it down.

How Lauren Yee and the rest of XX PlayLab manage to balance all these disparate elements and still make them work is nothing short of magic.  I suspect Hookman is a work of alchemy, simultaneously dissecting the slasher genre while revealing the very real fears that inspire it.

Hookman is a singular experience.  Those unafraid of graphic violence will have a wonderfully dark, funny, and sobering good time.  Audiences that hesitate at the sight of fake blood may want to reconsider their stance and make an exception.

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