Theater review

Sex, Love, and Meat

A dinner party devolves but the laughs keep coming in WET’s Hunter Gatherers.

By Laura Dannen January 12, 2010

Two married couples, no rules in WET’s Hunter Gatherers.

Who knew that a play that simulates violent sex and animal sacrifice could be a pleasant surprise? In the Washington Ensemble Theatre’s tiny black box on 19th Avenue East is a big, booming production full of wit and carnal mayhem—the kind that may make you flinch, but you’ll laugh loudly as you do. In Hunter Gatherers, two dissatisfied thirtysomething couples reunite for their joint wedding anniversary in a small San Francisco apartment. As the smell of fresh lamb wafts out of the kitchen, civility is dismissed and primal urges take over.

In less capable hands, this concept could devolve into a queasy mess. Thankfully, director Desdemona Chiang does an outstanding job pacing the razor-sharp script by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, giving you enough time to process what just happened without letting it linger like week-old meat. There isn’t a weak link in the cast either. Of particular note is Hannah Franklin, a tall redhead with the comedic timing of Lucille Ball who plays Wendy, a self-satisfied “hunter” who lusts for her best friend’s husband.

Considering Nachtrieb’s fresh take on thirtysomething malaise, it makes sense that this play won the ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award in 2007. I might even go back for a second helping.

Washington Ensemble Theatre’s ‘Hunter Gatherers’ runs through February 8.

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