Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Also see Sharon's review of Pippin
It's a dinner party. Four friendstwo couplesare getting together to celebrate an anniversary. With the evening so special that it demands an animal sacrifice, one might expect this to be the anniversary of some really creepy event (a blood oath of some sort?). But, as the play soon explains, it is simply the couples' joint wedding anniversary. There's nothing creepy herea fact which, when you think about it, is really creepy.
Richard is the evening's chefhe's the one who insisted on ultra-fresh lamb, despite the misgivings of his wife, Pam. Richard fancies himself an artist, both in the kitchen and out, and he is driven by his desire to create something better than everything that has ever gone before. And, coupled with his desire to create, Richard also possesses the desire to dominate and destroy. He finds it necessary to prove his manhood by wrestling his friend, Tom, even though the nerdy physician poses no physical threat. It's like a bad episode of that High School Reunion show where, instead of the bully apologizing for hurting his victim's feelings, he goes right back to his aggressive, humiliating ways. Doug Newell's loud, energetic, domineering Richard starts off the play as just a little bit on the primal side of things, and he's absolutely terrific as he descends into full-on caveman.
Richard is matched not by his own wife, but by Tom's wife, Wendy. Wendy (Vonessa Martin) is insanely passionate about everything. (When Wendy's knock at the door isn't immediately answered, she immediately freaks out because Pam and Richard must be dead.) But she feeds Richard's urges and incites him to go further; she's nearly orgasmic at the scent of his cooking lamboh, and she'd like to have his child.
Pam has an innocence to her, and a serious case of denial (which leads to a hilarious first act closer). Sara Hennessy's portrayal starts off a bit stilted, as though some of Richard and Wendy's heightened responses are making it difficult for her to remain normal. But her performance picks up as the play progresses, and the more we know about Pam's own repressed urges, the better she gets. Tom (Steven Schub) is also hiding a baser self, but he so desperately doesn't want to lose the veneer of civilization, he keeps trying to take the high road of mutual respect with Richarda path that can't possibly end well for him.
Nachtrieb's play is smart and funny, as he allows his characters to explore their archetypes in different situations. When Richard tells the others of his slaughter of the lamb, Pam still weeps over the death of the animal, Wendy is excited by the sensual pleasures of the meal, and Tom thinks it's a Health Code violation.
Directed with the usual Furious Theatre Company flair by Dámaso Rodriguez, the play is alternately intense and hilarious; and, as with other Furious productions, the cast works together with an apparent level of trust that enables them to push limits with each other with conviction. It results in a fine example of Furious's workan impressively engaging production of an edgy new play.
Hunter Gatherers runs at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre through February 21, 2009. For tickets and information, see www.furioustheatre.org.
Furious Theatre Company presents Hunter Gatherers. By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb; Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez. Stage Manager Katie Davies; Set Design Kurt Boetcher; Lighting Design Christie Wright; Sound Design Cricket S. Myers; Costume Design Christy M. Hauptman; Fight Choreography Brian Danner; Graphic Design Eric Pargac; Production Associate Liz Eldridge; Reiki Consultant Rebecca Rasmussen; Assistant Director Megan Goodchild; Production Manager Nick Cernoch; Associate Producer Megan Goodchild; Marketing and Publicity David Elzer/DEMAND PR; Production Photographer Anthony Masters; Master Electrician Davey Carlton; Set construction Nick Cernoch; Joe Hennessy; Shawn Lee; Brad Price.