Hidebound at In the Heart of the Beast

Bruce Silcox

It's not easy to deconstruct Erik Ehn's Hidebound. The piece is only one part of the playwright's 17 plays on the theme of genocide. Hidebound doesn't come with a linear narrative, instead building on themes of oppression and violence through repeated motifs. Oh, and as the venue indicates, it's a puppet show, one with plenty of sharp, angry edges created by director Alison Heimstead and a quartet of puppeteers. The play follows centuries of murder, oppression, biological warfare, and exploitation, using a conquistador and four henchman, called the barbecue eaters, as the primary way to explore these themes. Again, don't go looking for a narrative here. Ehn's elliptical script provides context, with the action brought to life mainly through the work of the puppeteers, whether they are violently destroying a tiny model village or wrapping the stage, and themselves, in plastic wrap. The string of striking images that makes up the short one-act piece is the real takeaway here. The play's context needs to be fully explored outside of the theater (or started in the nightly after-show discussions), but the immediate visceral impact remains.

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