Modern couples revert to savagery in a savagely funny diorama come to life
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Nov. 5, 2010
Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 479-7529, www.capitalt.org
Through Nov. 13
Running time: 2 hr.
The Capital T Theatre website quotes The San Francisco Bay Guardian referring to Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's Hunter Gatherers this way: "Like a mash-up of the most brutal episode of Wild
Kingdom and any episode of South Park." Which is pretty right on target, Guardian, WTG, but to which we would add "plus a mash-up of Friends and Shark Week," although that, too, serves only as a caricature of the situation. Still, even such reduction is apropos, as the story itself is a wacky caricature of humans and the situations they can fall into, especially if they're 1) mildly affluent but unfulfilled urbanites and 2) dreadfully mismatched couples.
Not that there's anything wrong with such caricatures, of course – as the warped brilliance of South Park and the overweening popularity of Friends will attest.
The best news is that Capital T's Mark Pickell has chosen a fine cast to embody this dark farce of modern humanity.
The set-up is that a foursome, two thirtysomething hetero couples who've been friends since high school's senior prom, are meeting for their now-annual dinner. Rebecca Robinson plays Pam, the timid and sensitive soul, married to artist and aggressive hedonist Richard (Kenneth Wayne Bradley); these two are hosting the meal in their Richard-built, corrugated-steel-and-concrete house. Liz Fisher plays Wendy, a somewhat thwarted sybarite currently suffering the throes of Wanna-Have-a-Baby Fever, who's married to the repressed, fussy, and sperm-negative medical doctor Tom (Brad Price).
You put these four characters together and, hells yes, hilarity will ensue. You put these particular actors in those roles, and that hilarity will ensue with professional skill and verve, moving them beyond cartoonish at times and, so, making the truly goofball moments all that more ridiculous. Bradley, particularly, who is quickly becoming Capital T's Not-So-Secret-Weapon-of-Vigorous-Stagecraft, unleashes his inner Neanderthal to raucous, laugh-inducing effect, but all four actors work the material with ease and sweet timing, whether they're exchanging volleys of sitcom snarkiness, wrestling wildly on the floor, battling one another with knives and hunks of freshly roasted lamb, or, after much initial fumbling, fucking in the bedroom loft.
Pickell has his actors making full use of the set, moving them smoothly around the furniture and the set's various levels, assuring that wherever there's scenery, it will eventually be chewed right there. The play's promo poster is based on a museum diorama of ancient protohumans; this show is very much like such a diorama come to life, with our modern citizens, spurred by desperation that is increasingly less quiet, reverting to flesh-tearing, murderous savagery.
And, yeah, it's a hoot.