Shanon Weaver's play puts a spin on the hit-man genre with some unusually gentle and refined assassins for hire
Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., May 10, 2013
HIT.Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 512/921-4264
Through May 18
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.
There's this convention in popular movies: A hit man arrives to take out a target and, instead of just doing the job, has a long conversation with the victim to explain his motivation.
In Shanon Weaver's HIT., revived by a chick & a dude productions, the hit men's rules for their work specify that they should get in, do the job, and get out. And yet HIT. cannot resist the temptation to have its assassins talk at length about why they're there. Perhaps it's something in the setup: men in suits packing heat, living by a code of conduct as they go about doing morally reprehensible things.
Asher (Shanon Weaver) and Wyatt (Tom Green) have shown up at the same graffiti-strewn warehouse (set design by Michael Raiford) to do a job – the same job, actually, only the problem is that the target didn't show. The mathematics of the situation would seem to suggest that the two are there to off each other, but once Asher and Wyatt push through the initial urge to shoot one another in the face, they enjoy a tense reunion. Well, Asher, the younger of the men, is tense. Wyatt projects a certain nonchalance brought on by many more years of experience. The difference is fun to watch.
Years ago, Wyatt and his colleague Ervin (Garry Peters) killed a guy who had a wife and a foster kid. Asher was that kid, and his caretaker was abusive. Wyatt and Ervin took pity on Asher, took him with them, and reared him to follow in their profession. He was already messed up, they reasoned. Why not give him a purpose in life?
HIT. alternates between the standoff with Asher and Wyatt, and scenes of Wyatt and Ervin bringing up young Asher (Gary Livingston-Weaver) the "right" way: teaching him strategy, technique, guts, and loyalty. Everything stuck, it seems, but the loyalty, because Asher left them to work for another boss, and nobody has gotten over this son's betrayal of his fathers. As directed by Melissa Livingston-Weaver – the show's a family affair – the play is an exploration of fathers and sons, and what it means to construct a moral code when you know you're living a life of callous violence.
It's a curious take on the life of a hit man. Despite Asher's background and the men's seedy careers, the characters all seem to be products of a sophisticated and very middle-class mindset. Wyatt and Ervin are both faithfully married and seem to treat their wives – and, in Wyatt's case, daughters – well. They play chess and converse like office guys at the water cooler who happen to be carrying handguns. Part of the appeal of the hit-man genre is the contradiction of brutal killers wearing pricey suits and enjoying a high pay grade. Weaver depicts hit men who are, despite their guns and many unprosecuted crimes, gentle and refined. They might as well be white-collar guys at a professional mixer who really like to use the word "fuck."
Not everyone will mind the disparity. The ideas in HIT. are worth exploring, and the actors carry out their roles well.