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Home / Articles / Arts / Theater /  Theater ...
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Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012

Theater of the absurd reigns ‘A Man, His Wife and His Hat’

Moxie’s current one tops our coverage of plays in local production

By David L. Coddon
amanhiswifeandhishatmoxie Mark C. Petrich and Robin Christ in 'A Man, his Wife and his Hat.'
- Photo by Daren Scott

Given a play titled A Man, his Wife, and his Hat, you’d figure there has to be more than meets the eye. There is in Moxie Theatre’s production of MFA candidate Lauren Yee’s one-act play, staged just last year at UCSD’s Baldwin New Play Festival. With its parallel-time narrative, fanciful ruminations on love, marriage, temporality and death, A Man, his Wife, and his Hat is an adventurous work that at some points goes astray and at others lingers and glows, like a moonbeam.

The play’s jumping-off point—when old Hetchman’s beloved hat goes missing—and how that takes on weightier significance brings to mind Nikolai Gogol’s short story “The Nose,” in which a Russian major’s schnoz wanders away. There are no pat explanations there or for Yee’s “klezmer-inspired love triangle,” as the Moxies call it (the love triangle involving Hetchman, his wife and the hat). With Yee’s play, it’s best to roll with the punches and give yourself up to its absurdities, like a glib and omniscient talking wall, a lumbering golem that eats human flesh or Cheetos, depending on the moment, and certain characters who defy gravity and float upward.

A Man, his Wife, and his Hat would seem to address the quandaries of love in dissecting the uneasy relationship between Hetchman (Mark C. Petrich) and Hilda (Robin Christ) and the relationship between their future grown daughter (Jennifer Eve thorn) and her fiancée (Albert Park). But it’s not that elementary. The joy Hetchman experiences—and the music he hears—when wearing his hat is mere subtext: His fractured world and the one he would bequeath to his only child is not without joy, but one seemingly without anchor. Floating away is inevitable.

Moxie’s artful staging includes an underground space containing the golem (Lily Kelting, in what must be a sweltering costume) and a great wall (couldn’t resist) voiced offstage by Jo Anne Glover. alternating light and darkness add to the illusion of wafting in and out of time.

An amusing beginning and a poignant, almost sentimental, ending bookmark uneven antics on stage. Head-scratchers abound. That’s half the fun, or half the frustration. Wear your thinking cap—or, perhaps more appropriately, your thinking hat.

A Man, his Wife and his Hat runs through April 29 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $20-$27.

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Brownie Points: Deborah Gilmour Smyth directs the southern California premiere of this new play about five women who discover themselves and each other while on a field trip with their daughters, who are never seen by the audience. Previews April 13 through 19; opens April 20 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.

Rent: UCSD’s annual Muir Musical is a production of the 1986 Broadway show about young performers in New York City struggling to earn a living. Runs April 12 through 14 at 8 p.m. at UCSD’s Mandeville Auditorium. $12.

Respect: A Musical Journey of Women: The evolution of women’s role in society is explored through past top-40 hits in this upbeat musical. Opens April 18 at the Lyceum Stage at Horton Plaza.

Ripples from Walden Pond: Francis Gercke is Henry David Thoreau in this world-premiere one-man show, presented as part of Cygnet Theatre’s Playwright in Process program. Runs April 16, 17, 23 and 24 at the Old Town Theatre.

Stepping Out: Amateur dancers are invited to perform at a big party in this upbeat comedy. Are they up to the task? Opens April 12 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. $36-$63.

Topdog / Underdog: Ion Theatre borrows Moxie Theatre’s Delicia turner Sonnenberg to direct this dark-comic tale of rivalry between two brothers, jokingly named Lincoln and Booth. Previews April 14 through 20; opens April 21 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. $10-$29.

Now Playing

Anna Christie: Eugene O’Neill’s melodrama about a “woman with a past” and the two men in her life—an old-salt father and a love-struck seaman—unfolds in its own sweet time over four acts, the third of which contains most of the emotional fireworks. A contemporary-sounding Anna is nearly lost in the heavily accented fray between Swedish dad and Irish lover. Through April 15 at Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up.

A Room with a View: This world-premiere musical, based on the novel by E.M. Forster, offers the old-fashioned pleasantness of a show from two generations ago. Well, there is a (tame) nude scene, but otherwise there are no surprises in the lavishly costumed tale of a young woman’s awakening to passion during the stuffy Edwardian era. Through April 15 at Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $39 and up.

Almost Maine: Love both poignant and hilarious happens concurrently in John Cariani’s play set in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. Through April 21 at Scripps Ranch Theatre at Alliant international University. $22-$25.

Deconstruction of a Drag Queen: Katherine Harroff directs her own original work, which peeks into a world of high heels and hip pads and is based on the true story of San Diego’s own Grace Towers. Through April 21 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. $15-$25.

Parade: The musical by Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown recounts the true story of a Jewish factory worker accused of the murder of a teenager in Atlanta in 1913. Presented by Cygnet Theatre. Through April 22 at Old Town Theatre. $35-$52.

Buried Child: Sam Shepard skewered the American Dream in this 1978 Pulitzer Prize winner that gets a restaging by New Village Arts’ acting ensemble. Through April 22 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. $26-$29.

I Take This Man: Jack Sharkey penned this comic farce about a woman who thinks she’s found love in the form of a fallen marathon runner. Through April 22 at Broadway Vista Theatre. $17.50.

A Man, His Wife, and His Hat: Lauren Yee’s absurdist tale finds a retired hat maker in search of his missing chapeau and his missing wife. The score for the show was composed by a UCSD grad student. Through April 29 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $20-$27.

This: Friends on the brink of middle age confront relationships, love and loss in a work by Canadian playwright Melissa James Gibson. Through April 29 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $32-$49.

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940: Song, dance and murder break out in this show written by John Bishop. Through May 6 at Coronado Playhouse. $18-$25.

The Pride: Three characters in two love triangles during two eras 50 years apart drive the tension in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play, directed by Glenn Paris. Through May 6 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $31-$33.

Late Nite Catechism: The participatory solo comedy by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan turns 20 years old this year. Through May 19 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. $44-$59.

miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb’s Players Theatre, it runs through May 27 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58.

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50.