Mamie Gummer is a hunter. Or at least she plays one in Primary Stages’ Hunting and Gathering, written by Brooke Berman. Her character, Bess, is a cocky 20-year-old Columbia student who makes out with her divorced lit professor in dive bars, slugs whiskey shots and wields a giant (fake) shotgun to play her favorite video game: Big Buck Hunter. “She’s very different from me,” said Ms. Gummer, who has the same angled features and distinctive, sloping nose of her mother, Meryl Streep. “She has an idealism, while I’m so cynical and jaded,” she explained, twisting her blond hair into a knot while resting in an audience chair before a recent performance. “Somehow it’s refreshing, in my ripe old age of 24, to play a 20-year-old.”
No-nonsense Bess is the opposite of her friend Ruth, a wandering romantic played by Keira Naughton, who hop-scotches around New York City, from sublets to friends’ couches, looking for a home. She searches for that home through lovers (Jesse, the aforementioned lit professor, played by Jeremy Shamos) and friends (Astor, a Buddhist “man with the van,” played by Michael Chernus). But Bess will help teach Ruth, through lessons in self-confidence and Big Buck Hunter, that she can find what she’s looking for within herself. Ms. Gummer said she “sucked” at Big Buck Hunter when she first played it, until Ms. Berman took her out to a bar and taught her how to shoot. “When I played for the first time, I got this surge of power; my whole world made sense to me,” Ms. Berman explained over the phone.
Ms. Gummer agreed that the game made her feel powerful and in control. “It’s a sensation that you don’t feel very often as a woman in the city.”
Hunting and Gathering, presented by Primary Stages, is playing at Theater A, 59E59 Theaters, at 59 East 59th Street, through March 1. Performances are Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit www.ticketcentral.com.