Shows performed at colleges don’t usually reflect the campus experience. An exception is Lauren Yee’s “existential slasher comedy,” Hookman, a co-production of the Moxie Theatre and the SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film (the rest of the run is sold out.).
On an ordinary night, Lexi (Kennedy Garcia), a high school graduate, and her close friend Jess (Dominique Payne) go out for a night at the movies. During the course of the evening, Lexi tells her friend about the urban legend regarding a one-handed killer known as Hookman (Ryan Stubo). Soon after that, however, she begins to feel that something is not right.
The drive to the movie theatre ends abruptly in tragedy, as the audience learns, following a theatrical jump in time, that Jess died that evening. As Lexi adjusts to her life as a college freshman at Yukon college, she continues to wonder who or what was responsible for her friend’s death.
With a run time of only about 70 minutes, Yee’s script is focused on Lexi’s search for answers. Other characters are used to flesh out the suspense, contribute to the mystery aspect of the tale and to add comic relief.
With the exception of Lexi and Jess, pretty much all the characters in the play are humorously narcissistic older teens and young adults who are too self-absorbed to care about other people’s problems. Yee, however, is able to make these insufferable people very funny.
While the play centers around death and self-centered student behavior, Yee references some serious issues dogging college campuses today, including drugs, breakups and rape. Her frank references to these topics make the evening into a relatable one for students and college graduates.
Yee also provides a script that allows directors to stage scenes of shocking bloody violence, which Moxie’s co-founder and executive artistic director, Jennifer Eve Thorn, doesn’t shy away from at the Experimental Theatre.
Thorn’s direction progressively heightens the tension and strangeness of the plot, to the point where the audience cannot easily distinguish between reality and fantasy. The collaborative work from her crew, including Ashley Bietz’s lighting, Charles Ritter’s audio, Reiko Huffman’s set and Taylor S. Payne’s costume for Hookman himself, help create a psychedelic tone as Lexi gets closer to potentially finding out the truth about Jess’ death.
Acting with plenty of determination, Garcia leads the cast with an empathetic expressiveness that allows her character to be very likable. She handles Lexi’s sense of humor, fear and pluckiness with plenty of charisma and is onstage for almost every minute of the run time.
Performers in smaller supporting roles have several funny, and occasionally disturbing, moments onstage. Laura Ngyuen and Annie Barrack are hilarious as the self-centered students Yoonji and Chloe, while Stubo impresses with his acting range, playing three men who appear very different on the surface.
Dark and intelligent, Thorn’s interpretation has enough interesting twists to leave audiences pleased, and ends with enough ambiguity to appeal to fans of existential work. Thorn and Yee might leave you paranoid, in a good way, when driving home in the dark, following the final scene.