In the annals of dark family secrets, the obsession that grips the dying, unseen patriarch of Daisy Foote’s Him is unusual, but hardly the worst. The sin of this father has nothing to do with alcohol, sexual abuse or crime. Instead, the unnamed “him” who heads rural New Hampshire’s Randolph clan is fascinated by nature. As his lonely wife and restless children grow estranged from him, he hikes through the woods to meditate on trees, mountains and the hunting methods of wild beasts.
The nature kink is one twist that rescues Foote’s tender, low-key portrait from conventionality. Excerpts from decades of the father’s journals pepper the script, recited by his middle-aged children: overworked spinster Pauline (Hallie Foote); gay, lovelorn Henry (Tim Hopper); and mentally disabled Farley (Adam LeFevre). For most of the first act, the siblings soothe or exacerbate each others’ foibles and fears, as they wait for Dad’s passing—which they expect to worsen their financial woes. In the second act, their fortunes turn and more twists occur.
Dramaturgy is not hereditary, but Foote shares her father Horton’s sensitive ear for repression and pettiness in the family, as well as his strain of nostalgia that is painful but briskly unsentimental. Bolstered by a seasoned ensemble (including sister Hallie and LeFevre’s unapologetic, spoiled manchild), Him keeps it in the family, even if Papa wandered far from home.—David Cote
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