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Breeders

Breeders. Comedy. Written by Dan Giles. Directed by Adam Odsess-Rubin. Faultline Theater. PianoFight, 144 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA.

Back in the un-PC days, breeders was a derogatory term for  “people who have children, particularly for parents who purportedly overfocus on their children and allegedly abandon their previous friends and lifestyle; or to women who give birth to many children, often with the derisive implication that they have too many offspring.”  It became the jokingly derisive adjective for all heteros. All this changed with the advent of same-sex marriage and gay adoptions, the subject of Dan Giles bitingly funny dark comedy Breeders at Faultline.

Gay couple Dean (Sam Berkten) and Mike (Ryan Hayes) are expecting a baby; the supposition is that they’re ready for such an undertaking. But fears arise; in a hilarious rant, Mike rails against Neil Patrick Harris and his picture perfect poster gay family, and Dean gets busy on “Prowler”, a gay hookup site, looking for his dream toe sucking fantasy. When Dean hypothetically poses the question of his ability to become a family, Mike explodes. How could Dean allow his fears to override their joint decision to adopt? Bertken and Hayes are extremely comfortable in their roles creating a realistic and believable mainstream gay couple.

Mike (Ryan hayes and his lover Dean (Sam Bertken) are shocked at the going's on in the hamsster cage. Photo by Clive Walker.

Mike (Ryan hayes and his lover Dean (Sam Bertken) are shocked at the going’s on in the hamsster cage. Photo by Clive Walker.

Adding to the duos distraction is Dean’s obsession with the two male hamsters he’s safe-guarding for his 8 year-old niece. Seems the randy rodents are busy “doing it” and Dean and Mike become fascinated. In a hilarious parallel plotline, we meet the anthropomorphic hamsters, Jason and Tyson. Jason, in a show stealing performance by Neil Higgins, is madly, unconditionally in love with the rough, gruff Tyson (Nikki Meñez). Over expressive, sweetly naïve, and hugely needy, Jason wants more sex, more bonding and more communication. Every moment Higgins is on-stage, with his high-pitched, heart-on-his-sleeve affirmations is a joy. Tyson is his polar opposite. When it turns out that Tyson is a she, and very much pregnant, things take a strange turn.

The play flips back and forth between the two story lines, excellently stage by Director Adam Odsess-Rubin and the cute set design by Max Chanowitz that double as the both couples abodes. A giant water bottle, running wheel and rainbow colored critter trail mirror the tiny hamster cage that sits on the couple’s coffee table.

Female hamsters are known to become aggressive, especially when in the estrous state and this behavior provides some hilarious dark comedy to the play. Tyson gets edgier and more violent, gouging out Jason’s eye and eating it. When she finally gives birth to a litter of 9 pups, Jason is overwhelmed with even more unconditional love. Tyson can’t take it and eats all he pups but one. She will even kill Jason in an act of hormonal outrage.

A dark as it all sounds, Breeders is very, very funny. After all the angst of impending parenthood (both rodential and human) there’s a happy ending. The parallel between the two couple’s actions is delightfully juxtaposed in Dan Giles’s witty, often sardonic script. Faultline’s mission is to empower emerging artists and create vibrant new works: add Breeders to their successful formula.

Performances run through April 29th, 2017    www.faultlinetheater.com