nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
July 23, 2010
Have you ever considered why you are friends with some of your friends? In particular, the friends you were once close with but now you don't see them but once a year or so. Hunter Gatherers made me think about these old bonds and why they can be so hard to break. And I had some laughs on the way.
The story is about two couples who were great friends back in their school days. They are now both married couples and are generally unhappy with their partners. They are nostalgic for their glory days and long for something other than what they have. Richard and Pam are ship and skipper, respectively, but that's just a facade. Pam is incapable of leading anything and Richard is dominant and violent and so insecure he has to constantly profess his superiority and his virility while he grabs his package. Then you have Tom and Wendy, who are so completely wrong for each other that it's hard to understand what attracted them in the first place. Wendy is trashy and, for the most part, a horrible person, while Tom is compassionate and caring yet dark and brooding. You quickly realize that a partner swap would be best for them, but it's a matter of bringing that up to an old friend. Their friendship is already strained but as the plot unfolds their friendship is wrestled to the ground and humiliated.
Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb has a dark and, at times, absurd sense of humor. I certainly enjoyed his sheer audacity and the crazy situations he drops his characters into. He has them using a good variety of tactics to try to get what they want and I enjoyed that as well. His plot is a bit hard to swallow though. I had the feeling Nachtrieb was trying to create a world that is similar to this world but not quite the same. It's a world where people are reduced to dropping to their knees to eat a lamb carcass off the floor and then dry hump, a world of penetrating toasts, where sexual frustration can be asphyxiating. This is a character-driven play and Nachtrieb's characters are very strong though they could stand for a little more development. I found it difficult to really connect with any of them.
The play's director, Lee Papa, lends the play some nice stage pictures. He keeps a solid pace that holds the attention very well. It's possible that he could have nudged the actors toward a little more character development. Also, there are some action/fight scenes that had me a little worried that an actor might get hurt and the sort of pulled me out of the moment. The cast, Kendra MacDevitt, Matt McAllister, Diana Harkin, and Chris Russell, are very committed to their roles. MacDevitt is very good as the mousy Pam. I connected a little with her character. McAllister and Harkin are Richard and Wendy, respectively, and they are very believable as unlikable people. Russell really stands out as Tom. He has a good grip on who is character really is and he manages to reach a little deeper than the others.
Hunter Gatherers has its moments of delightfully dark comedy that make the experience worthwhile. It made me think of the phrase, "with friends like this who needs enemies."