Theater archives

Good Heif


Good Heif tells the story of a boy and his erection. In an abstract farmland somewhere between the dust bowl and medieval Europe, the young hero of Maggie Smith’s play (a lad named “Lad”) freaks out over the conspicuous phallus suddenly poking through his rustic rags. He turns to “Pa” for advice on becoming a man, but the answer is not quite Dr. Spock material: “You go fuck that heifer or you ain’t my son.” Father knows best, after all. Of course, Lad shouldn’t have to resort to bestiality for release, but true affection in this world runs as dry as the barren land. Given a “Ma” who thinks babies come from the soil and considers any physical touching between mother and son a form of incest, where else can a boy turn but to the livestock?

Smith has a strong voice and paints the rural waste-land in intriguingly mythic tones. But her tale of frigid fundamentalists in the heartland stifling their children with their prudish prejudices seems overly familiar. The script never gets beyond the obvious thematic level of “Don’t look, don’t think, don’t feel”—as a mob chants at the climax. Sarah Cameron Sunde exacerbates the schematics by directing everything at a fevered pitch with commedia-style physicality, rendering Ma and Pa especially cartoonish. While the actors impress in this mode—in a finely executed New Georges production—Smith’s material may have been better served by underplaying, letting its American Gothic absurdism speak for itself.