- Photo courtesy of Rob Long, Clear Story.
- Tressa Glover and Jonathan Visser in Hunter Gatherers.
"Crazy play," says Jeffrey Carpenter about Hunter Gatherers, and it's hard to disagree. Carpenter's Bricolage troupe is staging the Pittsburgh premiere of the bloodily satirical 2006 farce by up-and-coming playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.
The play depicts two married couples -- life-long friends -- at a loft dinner party. Richard is an alpha-male artist, Pam his shrinking-violet wife. Their guests are Tom, a milquetoast doctor, and his wife, Wendy, who's rather more aggressive. Things go terribly wrong ... or terribly right, if you like vicious one-liners and the brutally comic stripping away of the thin veneer of civilized behavior (and sometimes clothing).
Nachtrieb, 36, is a rising star. The San Francisco-based playwright's end-of-days comedy boom was the most produced play of 2009-10, with 16 productions, according to the Theatre Communications Group. (It premiered locally this past March, at Off the Wall Productions.)
Hunter Gatherers might be his most critically acclaimed play. The world premiere was staged by sketch-comedy troupe Killing My Lobster (with whom Nachtrieb often works); the play won the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award for best new work premiered outside of New York. The San Francisco Chronicle called Hunter Gatherers "[o]utrageously libidinous knockabout farce meets penetrating social satire." San Francisco Weekly said the play is "as sophisticated in its worldview as it is barbaric in its energy."
Nor has Nachtrieb calmed down or slowed up: A brand-new work, Litter, follows the "Framingham Dodecatuplets," 12 siblings who perform as a vaudeville troupe.
Bricolage's Hunter Gatherers, directed by Carpenter, stars area newcomer Jonathan Visser as Richard, and local favorites Amy Landis (as Wendy), Michael Fuller (Tom) and Tressa Glover (Pam).
As comedy, the play is wild. As social commentary, says Carpenter, it's incisive, exploring a world of young adults whose lives are a series of inconsequential choices. Hunter Gatherers, by contrast, opens with a life-or-death choice (involving what's for dinner), and it accelerates from there. The characters, says Carpenter, think "they're on the same train at 100 mph ... until they realize they're not on the same train at all."
Still, says Carpenter, most people can probably see themselves in characters who have traded truths (not least about themselves) for security of some kind. "I hope that the audience really feels a sense of danger in this play. It's a dangerous play."
BRICOLAGE PRESENTS HUNTER GATHERERS Thu., April 14-May 7. 937 Penn Ave., Downtown. $17-40. www.webbricolage.org