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Off-Off-Broadway Review

NY Review: 'Good Year for Hunters'

NY Review: 'Good Year for Hunters'
Photo Source: Brad Harris
The standard concepts of time and story are shattered in Jess Barbagallo and Chris Giarmio's bizarre "Good Year for Hunters," presented as part of the Ice Factory 2012 festival at the New Ohio Theatre. Even the credits are unusual. The two authors are listed as providing the story and direction, but only Barbagallo is cited as having written the script. The plot progresses with the logic of a dream as relationships and actions are introduced, contradicted, and then restated. It's hard to follow what's happening, and as a result it's difficult to care about the screwed-up characters. Yet there is a certain tender sweetness in the portrayal of this web of dysfunction. I initially resisted its charms, but the play gradually grew on me.

The convoluted story line concerns gay siblings Bicker and Jo, a brother and sister whose parents have evidently abandoned them. The play opens with the two plotting to escape the closet where they've been living—symbolism, anyone? Then we meet their next-door neighbors Neil and Candace, a middle-aged heterosexual couple with a little boy named Billy, who has a degenerative disease that twists his young body. The next thing we know, Bicker has launched an affair with Neil and, in a weird symmetrical twist, Jo is making love with Candace.

Also in the mix is a talking bear, a close friend of Jo's, who lumbers in and out of the action seeking affection like an abandoned doll. Oh, and the same actor who plays Billy enacts another bear who "mates" with the first one at the end of the play, providing a resolution of sorts. It's not clear how old Bicker and Jo are—are they children or adults recalling their childhood?—or if Neil and Candace are really their romantic partners or stand-ins for their absent father and mother. The only element that's clear is that the young people, having been damaged somehow, crave love from inappropriate partners (as does the bear).

If this sounds confusing, it is, yet the six-member company captures the aching longings of these desperate people despite the gaps in the script. Jo Lampert gives Jo a spiky tomboy exterior covering up a frightened little girl. Tina Satter excels at Candace's ambiguous connections with her husband and Jo. In a telling restaurant scene that may be a dream, Jo is a waitress serving the couple. Satter's eloquent, conflicted expression as Candace accepts a free piece of rhubarb pie from Jo speaks volumes about their complicated relationship.

David Gould subtly blends Bicker's little-boy uncertainty and mature determination, while Richard Toth embodies Neil's wounded pride. The adult Jason Blaine believably portrays the prepubescent Billy. Becca Blackwell has the greatest challenge as the lovelorn bear. Not only is she is playing a male role; she must inhabit an animal who has the human objective of finding love. Blackwell creates a sadly isolated creature who seems a lot more endearing than Seth McFarland's nasty teddy bear in the new movie "Ted."

The authors' direction grounds the action in specifics—each of the characters wants something definite from the others—even though the links between the scenes are purposefully loose. This gives the audience a solid hook to hang on to when the plot gets deliberately vague. Mike Cacciatore's sound design and Zack Tinkelman's lighting create an abstract environment in which nothing is certain or clear, appropriate for this perplexing yet intriguing new work.

Presented as part of Ice Factory 2012 at the New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher St., NYC. June 27–30. Wed.–Sat., 7 p.m. (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.

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