Presented by Shout on a Whim Productions
After an investment in pinewood caskets ends in termites and financial desperation, the owners of a funeral home—Maxine (Tricia Williams), Chloe (Maria Syrgiannis) and Jeffrey (Justin Hay)—face an ethical dilemma the night before a lucrative service. Having spent an hour with these three characters of Hymns and Hearse, I found myself caring about each of them more deeply than I expected.
It turns out that the elderly woman about to be embalmed and buried is actually still alive. Revealing this to the family would mean losing out on a gig that could save them. But can they actually… murder her? Though this big decision looms large, the play meanders away from it with expository dialogue that reveals their hopes, fears and relationships.
As a piece of drama, it can be a little clunky. People consistently announce their exit, leaving the remaining twosome to chat and bond. This pattern is repeated, over and over again. Written by Williams, the strained set-ups almost don’t matter because she cares about these people and we can’t help but invest in them too.
As the window of opportunity closes, their conversations touch on bucket lists, playful bets, romantic entanglements and money-making schemes to save their business. Each of them is endearing and their collective dynamic is compelling enough that we’re not even all that concerned about the outcome of their moral deliberations.
For the most part, it’s loose and silly, though it does settle into some genuinely touching moments as their need for the business and each other rises to the surface.