Maybe you know a secret handshake and a code word or two. But what about the cue for group hugs or for singing a song about how empty your drone-like life is? Are you aware that all initiates must be called “Henry” and need to be spied on while they’re in the bathroom? All Hands, a new production from the Hoi Polloi company (directed by Alec Duffy), invites us to contemplate these and other fine points of an unnamed Freemason-style society—and naturally the show never entirely unravels its mysteries.
The 18 members come and go in a clubhouse of wooden benches and geometric patterns, starting rituals and chants that can end just as abruptly. There’s little narrative to speak of: A young woman arrives looking for shelter and gets inducted; another woman holds a motivation seminar with Venn diagrams referring to “the side world” and “the (re)self.”
Until the final moments, Duffy and writer Robert Quillen Camp hold out the possibility that these playful rites might actually be Genet-inflected metatheater—a performance by the club, for itself more than for us. But any dramatic interest aroused by these enigmas faded long before then: After the first 30 minutes, the games only mean something to those who play them. We’re left wondering for the next hour if All Hands has substantial ideas guiding its structure, or if that too is private information concealed from view.