Thursday, February 8, 2018

Review of Hinter at Steep Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Hinter. It was by Calamity West and it was directed by Brad DeFabo Akin. It was about the Gruber family--Andres (Jim Poole), Cazillia (Melissa Riemer), and their daughter Viktoria Gabriel (Eunice Woods) and granddaughter Elsa--who lived on a farm in Bavaria. They were murdered one night and their neighbors Frieda (Lauren Sivak) and Klara (Sigrid Sutter) came over to see what had happened to them and discovered them. They call in Inspector Herzog (Peter Moore) from Berlin and people start to seem more suspicious and the audience discovers secrets about the family and their relationships with each other and their neighbors. I thought this play was absolutely fascinating. I love murder mysteries, and I loved watching this one unfold on stage. It was suspenseful, eerie, and occasionally humorous.

I think it is interesting how this show works backwards. You see everyone finding the bodies first before looking at the actuality of the time leading up to their deaths. I think that is really cool because it lets you theorize before you get more information. I also really liked how you get to see all of these meaningful relationships between women: some are friendships, some are romantic, and some are parent-child. But you really got to see into each one. They all had meaning to them, and they all had a backstory with each other. This play is focused on the female relationships. The relationship between Elizabeth (Sasha Smith) and Klara is very complicated. There isn't a single word to describe it. They are romantic with each other and they want to protect each other, but Elizabeth did something that really hurt Klara which they don't talk about for a long time, which exposes the flaw in their relationship. Viktoria's relationship with her mother is also very complicated because she loves her mother, but her mother has stood by her father's side even when she found out about the terrible ways he has behaved. Maria (Aurora Adachi-Winter) and Frieda are the beacons of light for Viktoria because they are offering her a way out. But there is an itching suspicion that I have that they might have ulterior motives. Just because this play talks a lot about female relationships, that doesn't mean they idealize them. I think it is really awesome how many layers they showed in each of these relationships, even though this play isn't super long. The writer and director don't cram the play with facts and action, they find a way to make everything make sense but also keep a bit of the mystery in the relationships. They don't tell you everything, but you have enough to understand the characters.

It is not that the men don't have significant parts, it is just that the play is more focused on the women's relationships and builds them up to something instead of them just being there, like happens in some plays. The men all seem like outsiders, even though some of them live in the area. The inspector, however, is a complete outsider. He is from Berlin, doesn't know anyone, didn't know any of the people who died, and is therefore not very respectful of the bodies. The postman, George Siegl, (Alex Gillmor) just sees them a few days a week. Lorenz (Nate Whelden), Viktoria's admirer, didn't use to be an outsider, but he has come back from the war a changed man, and not in the healthiest way. Andres lives in the house with the family, but he is sort of an outsider because he has done terrible things. He is blatantly disobeying the rules of how a family should behave toward each other. In this play, men are the outsiders, and women have this ring of connections.

I like how this play takes normal everyday occurrences and puts more meaning to them. In both acts of this play, people eat Viktoria's bread. In the first act, Frieda, Elizabeth, and Klara are hungry so they decide to eat some of it. And they start talking about how terrible the bread always was. In the second act, which happens earlier in time, Klara eats the bread and acts like it is good. She covers up her true feelings about it. Viktoria seems to be challenging everyone who eats her bread to tell her it is terrible. I think that the bread that Viktoria makes seems like it could be a metaphor for secrecy then. All these women are trying pretend that nothing is the matter even though something definitely is. Even when someone is challenging them to tell the truth, it feels impossible to because they feel like not admitting that anything is wrong is probably what Viktoria wants. It is sad because she is not specifically asking for help, but she still wants it. There's a really great moment in the play where Frieda is talking to Maria about Viktoria's escape plan. And she says that you can't help people if they don't ask for it. And Maria says, "Yes you can. You absolutely can." I think that is a beautiful moment that shows how Viktoria might want to be helped and be able to be helped even though she feels like she can't ask for it. It is really sad that when she decides to pull the trigger on a big decision she doesn't get to make it. That's what makes this play so compelling and depressing is they way that you already know the ending of her story but you are still hoping that maybe something will work out.

I have a lot of theories about who might have killed everyone, but I don't want to spoil anything. So you can click here if you want to see my theories.

People who would like this show are people who like Bavarian murder mysteries, complex relationships among women, and secrecy bread. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is a really great story with compelling characters. I'm still theorizing about this play and it was a lot of fun in a creepy way. I loved it.

Photos: Gregg Gilman

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