“Hunter Gatherers” – Actors Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ January 2, 2012


Actors Theatre, Stage West, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

“Hunter Gatherers,” Actors Theatre’s hysterically bizarre new production, explodes all over the stage as its wacky, far-fetched hilarity keeps audiences in stitches.  In Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s play two seemingly civilized and sophisticated couples get together for an annual joint anniversary celebration.  But when these couples join, their animalistic proclivities dominate and they do offensive things with each other.

The playwright suggests everyone stoops regularly to these basic desires and they complicate our lives.  The play dramatizes but Nachtrieb writes funny and humorous situations to illustrate his hypothesis.  Most scenes are loaded with continuous laughter as the mayhem plays out absurdly.

The play opens in Pam and Richard’s place.  It could be anywhere USA.  They are readying the annual wedding celebration they share with close friends Wendy and Tom.  Obsessed with a “Joy of Cooking” recipe, Richard wants to serve fresh lamb but their regular butcher’s cuts don’t measure up.  So Richard brings home a live lamb.  As Pam falls in love with the lamb, the slaughter grows challenging.  It sets the scene so that when their friends arrive, the couples go at each other.

The funniest tidbit is that this quartet of school buddies ended up with the wrong spouses.  The more sedate Pam goes better with the more conventional Tom, a successful doctor, and loud mouthed Wendy, with her exuberant sexual proclivities, fits perfectly with hot-to-trot Richard.  By the play’s end, wild things transpire before one character goes off to face new challenges and perplexities of life.

“Hunter Gatherers” isn’t for everyone but it makes its point well and cleverly amidst wonderful comic frivolity.  It’s something new and different as it slaps and bashes conventional relationships with satiric delight.

And the exemplary Actors Theatre production features Ron May’s cleverly brisk staging that makes the most of every wacky activity and fine local actors have fun with every bizarre incident as they use excellent farcical skills and display amazing energy, sparkle, style, and wit.

Cale Epps’ over-the-top Richard carry’s on with such brazen craziness that one wonders how Angelica Howland’s more stable Pam can stand him.  Yolanda London’s loud-mouthed and lusty Wendy plays hysterically off Toby Yatso’s sedate and slow to warm up wackiness as Tom.

Some good news.  Actors Theatre has raised $220,000 of their needed funding by year’s end so they will finish the current season.  Phoenix is a richer theater town because of Actors Theatre and with “Hunter Gatherers” you will see theater we probably wouldn’t get here without them.  “Hunter Gatherers” continues through January 15.  For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order tickets online at www.actorstheatre.org.

Grade: B