by Lynn on November 27, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Part of Theatre@York’s 2020-21 virtual season.

HAGS is a one-act play written by Aaron Jan and directed by David Jansen, with performances by York University theatre students and alumni. 

From the press information: HAGS is a dark, rapid-fire comedy that explores the limits of forgiveness in vengeful millennials and Gen Zs. When a team of online activists gathers to recruit their newest member, the group is Zoom-bombed by the alt-right, leading to a night of violence and a settling of old scores. HAGS asks: how do we find satisfying justice in online spaces? When do we go too far in our pursuit of a better world?”

CONTENT WARNING: Horror elements, depictions of violence, and discussion of suicide and abuse.

Playwright Aaron Jan has written a fascinating and disturbing play about the power of the internet to sway twitchy-fingered  devotees who don’t read, think, ponder, consider, and reason before they press “send” “share” and “like.”  He also writes vividly about how the internet can be manipulated by savvy millennials and Gen Zs for their own purposes under the guise of working for a better world.  

An ultra secret group of four young people formed HAGS (Hamiltonians Against Groups of Sadism) to champion the weak, downtrodden and marginalized against those the group feels are racists and bullies. The group feels vindicated when it can ‘out’ a person they consider to be racist and mean even though the results have meant that the ‘outed’ person’s life was ruined. In some cases suicide by the ‘victim’ was the result.

It becomes clear in this unsettling ‘comedy’ that the leader of HAGS, Marina,  is herself an intolerant bully with little sense of responsibility or accountability. In going after their next victim—who showed racist tendencies 10 years ago but seems to have reformed– the group beefs up their cause by adding a racist comment in an old photo of the victim.  Aaron Jan  has created a foil for Marina’s blinkered tendencies in the character of Audrey who does Herculean work to counteract Marina’s destructiveness.

Jan has nicely illuminated the importance of ‘followers’ and ‘likes’ in this on-line world and how dangerous it all is. He adds an inventive touch of having a voice of some reason challenge the group’s ideology. It looks like there might be a comeuppance and realization of the group of how dangerous they are but then Jan continues to coil the play back on itself. The notion of finding justice in online spaces, knowing when they go too far, and even a pursuit of a better world becomes questionable. But this is early days for the play and one hopes those blips will be attended to in further exploration.  

The acting and the production as a whole are mighty impressive.  

Further information is here:

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