Clarification: Howler’s Theatre is owned by Jeremy Wood and Scott Browning and rented Art’s Sake Studio for this production. It’s not officially connected to Art’s Sake, although Art’s Sake is co-producer of ‘Hunter Gatherers’ and all the actors involved are members of the Art’s Sake Resident ensemble.
By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater
Every year, when Tom and Richard and their wives get together to celebrate their anniversaries, Richard wrestles Tom to the floor.
Tom never wins. And Richard always has to make the point – every year for 17 years – that he’s the alpha male.
What’s a little wrestling between friends? Well, it’s the least of the primal transgressions in Hunter Gatherers, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s wild and woolly comedy, which is getting an appropriately outrageous production at Winter Park’s Art’s Sake Studio.
(Full disclosure: I’m a member of the American Theatre Critics Association committee that gave Nachtrieb the $25,000 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association Award for Hunter Gatherers as the best new play produced outside New York in 2006.)
Produced by a company called Howler’s Theatre, the farcical Hunter Gatherers sends up the peculiar obsessions of yuppiedom – what to eat, where to park the car – while it satirizes just how far men and women will go to prove their sexual worth.
So Richard, who calls himself an artist and lives with his wife Pam in an urban loft, is so keen on serving fresh meat to his old friends Tom and Wendy that he butchers a lamb on the living-room floor. He’s so full of himself that he talks of himself in the third person. And he’s so intent on proving his masculinity that he saves his semen in a plastic bag – and tries to penetrate just about everything in sight.
Richard is not the only character who takes things to extremes. And director David Meneses has taken Nachtrieb’s black comedy and run with it, delivering a production that never goes for subtle when gargantuan will do.
Of course, it’s probably unnatural to go for subtlety with characters who say things like “I’ve been craving flesh all day.” Hunter Gatherers presents a kind of heightened reality, and Howler’s Theatre takes it to scabrous lengths.
Jeremy Wood – with his shaved head, dashiki-like shirt and feather necklace – makes a Richard who is thoroughly delighted with himself; even when he’s upset he wants to be the center of attention. (When the lamb comes out of the oven too early, he sobs, “You have violated me!”)
Richard’s old friend Tom (Scott Browning, very funny in a downtrodden way) works just as hard to be mistreated. Pam (Christy Poggi, most amusing when she finally lets loose) is a victim of what is described as “insufferable niceness”: She covers a stain on the floor (lamb’s blood, don’t you know) with a vase.
And Suhor plays Wendy, Tom’s wife, as a loud, over-dramatic woman who takes no prisoners and shows no regret. Suhor’s comic timing is terrific: When Richard compares something to a guillotine, her Wendy jumps right in, “Poor Anne Boleyn.”
It’s too bad that Suhor brings out in Wendy so many gestures, so much busyness; a little waving the arms around is comical, but a lot just looks contrived.
Everyone is trying to prove something in Nachtrieb’s comedy – Richard and Tom that they’re a certain kind of man (virile in Richard’s case, masochistic in Tom’s), Pam and Wendy that they’re fertile vessels for masculine seed. And being a yuppie in this particular universe means taking things to their most
elemental. Even Pam, the least extreme of them, coaches herself on what she needs to do: “I can hunt, and I can gather,” she tells herself when there seems to be no other way.
It’s a corrosive but highly comical world, not for children or the faint of heart (and PETA members would do well to stay far away). The next time someone goes into raptures about “penetratingly good food with raw ingredients,” maybe you’ll think of Richard and decide to go out instead for a Big Mac.
- What: Howler’s Theatre production of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb comedy.
- Where: Art’s Sake Studio, 680 Clay St., Winter Park.
- When: 8 p.m. Feb. 19, 25 and 26.
- Running time: One hour 45 minutes, including one intermission.
- Cost: $12 general, $10 seniors and students.
- Call: 407-408-3794 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.