Son of a Hutch

About Joe Hutcheson's last solo show at the Left Out Festival (in 2011), I wrote:

Joe Hutcheson's new solo play The Geography of a Nervous Breakdown focuses in on that moment in every adult's life when he or she realizes that all that stuff that felt so right and real and good a few years earlier is actually an illusion: key cherished myths like "my parents are perfect and know everything" or "I'm extraordinary and can do anything I want" fly out the window, to be replaced with the maturity that only comes with experience.

Son of a Hutch, which premiered last Sunday at the 2013 Left Out Festival, journeys down some of the same paths, but with even more maturity and insight. Here Hutcheson examines his relationships with various men in his family—his younger brother, his uncle, his grandfather, but first and foremost his father. And in so doing, he comes to terms with the man he is and has (and continues to) become, and arrives at an understanding of his father and others that is clear-eyed and compassionate; one that will help him grow as he faces whatever challenges come up in the future.

The show's style is casual, conversational, and candid; there's no fourth wall in evidence as Hutcheson relates anecdotes about growing up in a Northern California family where all the males are called "Hutch" in a story-telling style reminiscent of Antonio Sacre or early John Leguizamo. The audience is fully acknowledged and engaged, and the self-awareness that comes from telling tales on your younger self is omnpresent without ever turning into the stuff of parody or camp. There's naturally some heightening because he's an actor after all, but there's fundamentally an honesty here that's entirely disarming. And as fans of Hutcheson will expect, there's a great deal of humor.

Hutcheson talks about a stint at camp where all the boys and their fathers dressed as Indians (it was the '80s, he tells us, so it was okay to use the word "Indians"). He talks about a misbegotten stint on a community football team, odd childhood games with his younger brother (one based apparently on the TV series Dynasty), and—in one of the piece's most moving moments—coming out to both of his parents (separately; they divorced when he was fairly young). Though Son of a Hutch is shaped as a collection of stories, it is definitely finally a play: Joe's journey from callow boy to wiser 30-something man—growing into the family inheritance, as it were—is involving and resonant.

Cheryl King' direction is utterly seamless (she's also credited as script consultant; the piece is remarkably tight for something never before performed). Alex Chmaj provides technical direction that's appropriately spare and simple. Hutcheson, as ever, is a witty and wise playwright and a warm, likable actor who holds us enrapt for the full 75 minutes of the show. The more I learn about this artist's life, the more I want to know more. Here's hoping we'll be hearing more from "Hutch" in the future.