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‘Hungry’ review: Richard Nelson play hits on current election

On Friday night, March 4, 2016, I sat down to watch a play that took place on Friday night, March 4, 2016. That kind of perfectly synchronized timing sounds downright impossible, but it’s happened a lot in recent years thanks to playwright-director Richard Nelson.

In the four-part “Apple Family Plays,” Nelson examined a middle-class family in present-day Rhinebeck, setting (and premiering) each play on a different date of political significance, including the 2010 midterm elections, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the 2012 presidential election and the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Now Nelson is in the midst of “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family,” a three-part cycle about a different family from Rhinebeck, with the current presidential election serving as a backdrop. During the first part, titled “Hungry,” the characters made remarks about the Republican debate held last Thursday night.

“Hungry” is very similar in format and tone to the four “Apple Family” works. Maryann Plunkett and Jay O. Sanders, who appeared in “Apple Family,” are now part of the Gabriel clan.

Very little occurs in these plays. In “Hungry,” the late middle-aged characters chat about their lives and a bit about the election while dinner is being prepared. They are generally downbeat and unsure about the future, especially Mary (Plunkett), whose husband died four months ago.

The casual, subdued acting from the six-person ensemble is ultra-realistic, but it’s hard to stay interested in “Hungry” for 100 quiet, uneventful minutes.

But taken together with the upcoming two segments (“What Did You Expect?“ and “Women of a Certain Age”), “The Gabriels” will provide another up-close and in-depth portrait of a struggling American family at this specific moment in time.

If you go

“Hungry” plays through March 27 at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., publictheater.org.

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