Good Year for Hunters Bears Its Oddness
Good Year for Hunters, a collaboration between writer-directors Jess Barbagallo and Chris Giarmo, could never have played the old Ohio Theatre. That Wooster Street locale lacked air conditioning, making most Ice Factory evenings sweat-drenched, program-as-fan affairs. But in the new Christopher Street space, with the HVAC humming, fresh directorial possibilities emerge. For example, as soon Hunters’ six actors step onstage, each pulls on a chunky hand-knit sweater. At the old Ohio, this would have dared heatstroke; here the worst that's risked is a fashion faux pas.
Though it jumps back and forth in time, Hunters takes place in a perpetual autumn amid a forest-bordering suburb. Erratic and elliptical, the play forms a loose love polygon among men who like boys, girls who like women, and bears who like girls. The occasional kernels of plot center on two queer, orphaned teenagers who strike up sporadic romances with the married couple next door. Why the talking bear appears is extremely unclear. But as the bear is played with gruff, bluff charm by Becca Blackwell, these intrusions are welcome.
Rather than writing a funny play, a chilling play, a melancholy play, or an absurdist play, Barbagallo and Giarmo have frapped multiple genres, then added flashing lights, rumbling sound, and occasional dance breaks. Sometimes the aggregate feels thrillingly weird, at other times merely confused, particularly when characters speak semi-poetic phrases such as, “When I finally walked outside, there were no tendons and trapezoids. We’ll have to let these things go.” Perhaps a more focused structure would have better supported the antic, tonal variety. In other words: Less hunting, more gathering.
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