The reunion begins with a sacrifice. Milquetoast computer programmer Pam (Kerry Ryan) arrives home to find her metalworker-novelist husband, Richard (Mario Calcagno), preparing a lamb for slaughter in the middle of their living room. Their high-school friends Wendy (Brooke Fletcher) and Tom (Joel Harmon), with whom they shared a double wedding and terrible secrets, are coming to celebrate their mutual anniversary, and this dinner will be very special.
In Hunter Gatherers, San Francisco playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb joins the spate of plays exposing the hidden savagery of modern life—such as God of Carnage and The Pain and the Itch, two produced in Portland since September—and manages to top them. His characters are not merely shown to be hypocrites or repressed chauvinists. In 90 minutes, they devolve into a state of near-incoherent paleolithic savagery. The show has a little something for everyone: For foodies, there's roast lamb; for action fans, there's light maiming; for Europeans, there's sex; and for Stieg Larsson readers and Rick Santorum voters, there's even some anal rape.
This is not, as you may have guessed, a subtle play. It's not a particularly deep one, either. Hunter Gatherers has only very little to say about the human condition, but it says it in the loudest, wittiest way one could ask. Theatre Vertigo's finest productions have been chaotic, absurdist farces, and this one is no exception. Director Tom Moorman and his cast exploit every possible sight gag, every insult and outburst and every opportunity for gross-out excess. I don't know there's much great art to be found in the sight of Calcagno and Fletcher feeding feverishly on a whole roast lamb, or Ryan's strangely calm, high-pitched fits, or the final gruesome tableaux, but I haven't laughed so hard in the theater all season.
SEE IT: Theatre Vertigo at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont St., 306-0870, theatrevertigo.org. 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays. Through Feb. 4. $15.