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The Hatmaker’s Wife

A modern fable about love.

Theater J presents Lauren Yee’s The Hatmaker’s Wife, directed by Dan Rothenberg, founding member and co-artistic director of Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company.
The program describes the play as “Magic and realism collide in this modern fable about learning to love. A young woman moves in with her boyfriend, and when she has trouble getting comfortable, her strange new home seems determined to help out, literally. The wall starts to talk, words magically appear, and a golem, with a taste for Cheetos, gets into the action.” This is a cross between a ghost story and a Yiddish fable. It claims to redefine home, family, and love. But does it do that? 

I found it does in some ways, but it left me wanting at the end. To me it appeared Yee left us with an unfinished tale. Maybe that is what she wanted. One thing is for certain; you do think about the play, and maybe that is the whole point of theater. 

When we first meet Gabe and Voice, his girlfriend, they have just moved in together, into a new home. It has furniture left from past tenants. Gabe thinks it all needs to go in the garbage, but Voice feels at home there. Quickly, she hears the Wall talking to her, and clearly Gabe can’t hear it. The Wall keeps sending her pages of a story, and she narrates the play from those pieces of paper. She is drifting away from Gabe, and getting the story of what we find out is her parents. The people she didn’t know, whose house it was sometime in the past, before she and Gabe moved in. 

Hatmaker's Wife
Tyler Herman and Ashley D. Nguyen    Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography

The play speaks to her father’s inability to show his love for his wife. You are led to believe it is from him Voice gets her inability to love. As the play moves on, the twists and turns in Hedgeman’s life, lead to his eventually understanding how he loves, that he loves, and the discovery he and his wife actually had a child, who disappeared. The Voice is that child. When the Golem arrives, Hedgeman thinks it is there to help him, but by the end of the play, we understand it was to help his wife die, and take her peacefully. 

Yes, not all that easy to understand. But the play is done with wonderful humor, which the incredible actors help you to understand. All six members of the cast are wonderfully talented, and each in their own way, keep you listening carefully to what they are saying. The cast includes Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Hetchman, the hatmaker; Sue Jin Song as Hetchman’s Wife; Tyler Herman as Gabe and the Golem; Ashley D. Nguyen as Voice, his girlfriend; Michael Russotto as Meckel, Hetchman’s friend; and Alex Tatarsky who is the voice of the Wall. 

The creative team has done a wonderful job including Scenic Designer, Misha Kachman; Costume Designer, Ivania Stack; Lighting Design, Alberto Segarra; and Sound Design, Sarah O’Halloran. 

The Hatmaker’s Wife will be at Theater J from June 5-25, 2024 and tickets are available online. It is definitely worth an evening at the theater.