Hunter Gatherers – Astonishing Writing and Enormously Funny

by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on June 23, 2006



THIS WORLD PREMIERE PLAY IS DARK AND IT JUMPS WAY, WAY OVER THE TOP as it delves into the wild animal instincts of human beings. At a special dinner to celebrate friendship with two of their best friends…sudden, surprising urges come up between these two married couples. The writing is just astonishing in this adult comedy by playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.

The story starts out with a sort of a sacrifice – that might make you a little queasy. But this beginning is very essential to the entire story. Once you get past that you really begin to understand why “Richard” – an oversexed man (Jon Wolanske) says things like: “I’m a lonely field Horse Pam” and “Let’s be fertilized by the Cock of Life.” Wolanske is superb as Richard – and yes, even a little scary. He’s just explosive.

The set is a typical San Francisco Loft with Ikea furnishings. The two levels open up the stage for the energetic action that takes place. These people are borderline crazy. Tom (John Kovacevich) the Doctor married to Wendy almost gets raped by his best friend Richard. There is one surprising moment when Richard playing rough house with Tom – pulls Tom’s trousers down in front of the two spouses and tries to mount him right over a foot stool in the living room. And yes, his butt does shine under the Loft lights. This was one of the funniest moments I have ever seen on the stage. The Look on Tom’s face was priceless. If this isn’t a performance of the year – I don’t know what is.

There are so many twists and turns in this play that you never know what is going to happen next. But, be assured that every surprise is a total delight. I could see that play on a weekly basis and never get bored. Surely – it will end up on a New York stage. It is so much better than most of the mediocre, boring stuff around.

Richard, the sex fiend, loves to cook and he actually has an apron with his name on it. It’s important to bring the cooking part in, because a lot of the play revolves around eating. Sometimes it’s not food. Richard also likes to make grunting animal sounds and wrestle with his best friend – as he declares; “Now, who is the strongest man?” However, his wrestling it seems – is just another excuse to park his balls somewhere.

The really funny part of this play for me – is that we have all known people like Pam, Wendy, Tom and Richard. They bring up real life flashbacks in your mind while you are watching these two truly dysfunctional couples on the stage. Melanie Case (Pam) and Alexis Lezin (Wendy) are so endearing that you just want to go up on the stage and hug them. They are absolutely sensational. But, if you should go up on the stage – watch out for Richard.

“Hunter Gatherers” is definitely the Breakout hit of the summer. Take my advice. It’s going to go on to big fame – and you can say that you saw it before anyone else. And I can’t imagine a better cast than the one at the Thick Theatre. By the way – the place was packed the night that I saw it. And, they were exhausted with laughter at the end.

Tracy Ward’s Directing kept the play up to speed. Excellent!
Eric Flatmo’s set is right on target and amazing.
The lighting by Christopher Studley was inventive.

KILLING MY LOBSTER presents ‘Hunter Gatherers’ at San Francisco Thick House Theater. Tickets: or 558-7721.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! [A recipient of The Lee Hartgrave FAME AWARD for Best Play and Best ensemble acting in a play]


BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT PATTI WOOD told the National Examiner that: “Katie is one un-happy camper”. She also sez that since Katie and Tom’s baby moment that her dazzling smile has turned into a pinched frown. And those large sunglasses that she wears is an indication that she wants to close down the window into her real feelings. That’s what Wood sez. Could be – but I wear large sunglasses and I’m just as happy as could be.


SHAWN RYAN – A SINGER THAT HAS MADE A HUGE IMPACT ON THE CABARET WORLD WILL BE ON THE NEW SIMON COWELL SHOW…”America Has Talent” this Sunday. If he wins this round then just like “American Idol” he will go on to the next round – until who knows…maybe “America’s Best Talent”. This show, of course will be an instant hit and make bigger stars picked from the vast pool of talent out there from every little dive around the nation. Celebs ask? “But, if he wins will he remember us?” I don’t know. But you might hear “And you are?”

SHARON OTT returns to the Bay Area to direct a new comedy from acclaimed local playwright Amy Freed. The play is called “Restoration comedy” and one of the high profile stars is Sharon Lockwood. Look for it at Cal Shakes (California Shakespeare Theater) July 5 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda.

MARIA SHRIVER (Mrs. Calif. Gov) was featured in a photo spread of celebs without makeup. Our celebs say: “She should never go out without it. She might frighten children at night.” But the real shocker is Princess Stephanie of Monaco. She really looks crumpy and lumpy.

SURVIVING JAMES DEAN is a new book by the former roommate of James Dean. The author, William Bast tells all about the five years when he was Dean’s roomie. Many books have speculated about Dean’s possible homosexuality – but Bast’s book goes a little farther by claiming that he had to ignore his budding homosexuality in order to avoid damaging Dean’s image. Now it’s 50-years later and Bast has decided that the time is ripe to bring his Star roommate out of the closet. Dean, as you know was killed in a car accident in his sports car while driving at high speed. So, he can’t talk or refute the incidents in this book or any other. Still, it might be an interesting read. My thoughts on Dean – is that he probably was bi.

Lorenzo Lamas is one of the stars appearing at Help is on the Way XII at Nob Hill Masonic Center Sunday July 30.

THERE WILL BE MORE STARS AT THE MASONIC CENTER THAN THERE ARE IN HEAVEN! Help in on the way XII will feature Florence Henderson, Tyne Daly, Michell Lee, Idol La Toya London, Idol Kimberely Locke, Dance Champs Nick Lazzarini & Melody Lacayanga, Phantom star Franc De Ambrosio, Broadway/TV Star Valarie Pettiford, Comic Bruce Vilanch, The Fab Carole Cook, The Smart as a Dart, or is it Smart as a Fart?… Leslie Jordan — will astound you. I always get it mixed up. Then there is Hunk Lorenzo Lamas (who was recently spotted on a British Airway flight from London to LA chatting it up with an elderly lady), The Jazzy Paula West, Broadway/TV\ star Mary Jo Catlett, Jazz/blues artist Tim Hockenberry (The Hair on his chest voice) and Champion Salsa Dance Team Ricardo & Michelle. It all benefits bay area Aids services and agencies. It’s going to be Hot, Hot, Hot!!! …and you will kick yourself if you don’t go. When you ask? Sunday, July 30 at 7:30 pm. Tix at 273-1620…or Online:

Who knew? Ellen DeGeneres, 46 was voted the ideal dinner guest by an online bunch of woman that celebrate women’s friendships. Celebs wonder: “Is that all there is?”

BEST HEADLINE IN A TABLOID ABOVE A PIX OF ASHLEE SIMPSON: “IT’S A WHOLE NEW ASHLEE!” Celebs say: “Think out of the box.” And…no connection – but Yada, Yada, Yada made it into the Oxford Dictionary.

A FLICKER BIT: Saw the Da Vinci Code the other day and found it to be engaging and beautifully photographed. Not a great picture, but a rather interesting mystery. Of course, the person that keeps the film alive is Ian McKellen. What really prompted me to see it was that Belarus, formerly of the soviet Union, yanked the film from theaters because Christians groups complained about it. After all these centuries – it’s still about the Christians. I thought that when the protestants beheaded “Mary Queen of Scots” that that would be the end of it. By the way the film was replaced in Belarus by “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Do Christians know what Geisha’s do?

Nathan Lane (The funny man in The Producers) will return to Broadway in the up-coming season in a revival of Simon Gray’s “Butley”. Previews start on Oct 5, at the Booth Theater. The play is a dark comedy.





Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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