Preview: Hunter Gatherers

By John Townsend October 28, 2011

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

Hunter Gatherers
Through Oct. 30
Red Eye Theater, 15 W. 4th St., Mpls
(612) 870-0309
<www.redeyetheater.org>

San Francisco playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s dark comedy begins with suburbanite Richard (Dan Hopman) pressuring his wife, Pam (Jen Scott) into slaughtering a lamb in their living room for the annual dinner they share with another married straight couple, Tom (Kevin McLaughlin) and Wendy (Bethany Ford). These two couples, friends since their teens, have pathetically and tragically continued the same patterns they originated in late adolescence. Arresting examples of Americans who never grow up and never expand their identity beyond their formative years. Nostalgia gone neurotic.

Richard, the quintessential Alpha-male, automatically dominates every situation, whether or not it hurts, offends, or insults Pam or Tom. With Pam, it’s because she’s his wife, therefore his chattel, so he can overwhelm her in any way he pleases with impunity. She’s a perfect doormat. (Yes, it is set in present day). With sensitive and intellectual Tom, it’s about being the top dog over him, even if it means wrestling him into anal rape. As for Wendy, she’s a cave woman Venus in contemporary dress and adores Richard.

Steve Busa’s dynamic cast bravely and perceptively fleshes out Nachtrieb’s conflict wherein emapthy and reason are assaulted by the narcissistic force of  primal urges toward violence, sex, and destruction. No, it’s not antisex, but this production reveals the volatile animal nature of sexuality that civilization compels us to keep under wraps. And the cast and Nachtrieb make us think seriously about that while laughing about it all the while.

In recent years Red Eye Theater has selected too many static plays that seem more like undeveloped ideas rather than fully realized serious scripts. Not so with this show. With Hunter Gatherers Red Eye gives us an exciting evening of theater crackling with many visceral moments.

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