Whenever there’s a world premiere in the Bay Area, DT&D wants to give you the scoop, so when we saw the press release for Encore Theatre Company’s latest production, Hookman, an “existential slasher comedy” by Lauren Yee at Z-Below, we knew we had to check it out. It’s the kind of play that makes you want to dissect it over drinks, so BEWARE potential spoilers below, or just skip to the verdict (spoiler: go see it).
Brittany: Soooo, was the whole thing a hallucination?
Katie: I don’t know! I kept going between this must be a dream, to wait no, this is really happening. When it was over I was like “Uhhh shoot, I didn’t get it.” Thank God you didn’t either, because I was feeling seriously stupid.
B: Me too! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, it went by really fast, it was super short…
K: Yeah, like an hour five.
B: And I was engaged the whole time, partially because I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening.
K: Yeah, I was definitely entertained, I just don’t know if I “got it”. It was really funny at points, then it would get kind of dark and creepy, then in the final scene it gets really serious and sad for a second, but then really quickly gets back to being sort of funny creepy horror with Hookman playing with her phone.
B: Ok, here’s a guess, maybe the moment the first scene ended, and they were in the car crash, Lexi was knocked out or something, and the whole play is her psyche dealing with what just happened, and the phone call at the end is reality calling her back. Like she’s actually in the hospital or something and the phone call is her mom talking to her when she’s in a coma? Could that be it?
K: Maybe, I don’t if I’ve ever had an experience quite like this before, where I leave the show and really don’t know what happened.
B: Yeah, I don’t know…the staging was cool. Interesting lighting, and really creative design for such a small space. That thing at the end though really threw me for a loop, when that crazy girl came out and she was somehow dead too? It was like the little stinger added to make it even more confusing “You may have thought this was all fake, but it wasn’t! But it was! Here’s some more stage blood! Curtain.”
K: Yeah what was that? Right now I’m sitting here going over the whole show in my mind thinking “what did that mean”.
B: There were definitely interesting and important themes, like what does social media do to us, how does violence and rape culture shape the way women have to interact with the world, how does a person cope with grief and guilt. I appreciated that they touched on all of that, while making it funny, scary and sad at the same time.
K: Yeah…I still just don’t get the ending. Someone seriously needs to go see the play and let us know in the comments section what actually happened. I know the directors notes say it’s supposed to be “hazy” but really this hazy?
The Verdict: The best theater not only entertains but makes you think. Hookman delivers on both fronts. It’s a little gory at parts (there’s quite a bit of stage blood spurted throughout), but as long as you can stand a little horror we think you’ll enjoy this show.
The Drama Talk: Hookman is the sort of show that you talk about to your friends three days after seeing it, because it’s such a mind-fuck. Playwright, Lauren Yee, adeptly explores themes of guilt, grief, belonging and violence against women all through the unlikely medium of a hilarious horror show about teenage girls. Encore creates an almost cinematic staging, with an impressive set for the Z-below space. The cast of supporting actors do a great job toeing the line between believably terrible teenagers and creepy other-worldly antagonists. While a heartfelt performance of Lexi, by Taylor Jones, keeps the show rooted a reality in which you can’t help but empathize with a teenage girl feeling isolated, scared and maybe guilty.
The Drinks: We always love checking out new-to-us places in the Mission, so we went to The Tradesmen nearby for post-show vino and snacks. We sipped rose and tried to wrap our heads around what we just saw, while banishing thoughts of Hookman lurking around the corner ready to strike.
Hookman runs through May 30th at Z-Below (the smaller basement theater at Z-Space). Tickets are available through the Z-Space website and range from $20-30, OR there’s currently super good deals on Goldstar starting at Comp-$15 tickets for select dates.