At 29, actor and writer Peter Carlone has already enjoyed a lot of success. But he feels that he is sometimes dismissed as a beta male, as a man who doesn’t assert his dominance all the time.
Carlone is playing Tom in Staircase Theatre’s Canadian premiere of Hunter Gatherers. In Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s outrageous comic script, two couples come together for a dinner party to celebrate the 17th anniversary of their high-school prom. But the layers of civilization soon start to burn away as the characters engage in acts of animal sacrifice, violence, and sex.
As Carlone explains to the Straight in his bachelor apartment near Kingsway and Main, “Tom has a lot of societally high-status things—he’s a doctor and he’s financially stable—and yet the other characters in the show don’t recognize that status.” Tom’s wife, Wendy, relentlessly belittles him—even telling him that he was her second choice—and Richard, who’s hosting the evening with his wife, Pam, physically pins Tom almost as soon as he shows up for dinner.
As the evening unfolds, we find out that before both men got married, Richard used to take this further and fuck Tom. In the play’s best line, Tom remembers his friend in their first sexual encounter: “Hot jock-sweat dribbled down his moderately hairy body and smelled like Tang.”
The actor, who is unambiguously straight, says, “What I like about playing Tom is that it’s already very close to me. I’m not saying that I’m not doing any work, but I get along well with him. I have a lot of the same desires—the desire to be respected, to be thought of as something more than just a prop, or a Plan B, or an afterthought. And even though I’m definitely happier than Tom, I feel the same frustrations sometimes. For instance, if you are in a group and you look around and you’re definitely the lowest status, you can feel it.”
Carlone, who performs with his sketch-comedy partner Chris Wilson as the duo Peter n’ Chris, says he can be acutely aware of his status in the comedy world. Peter n’ Chris won the Canadian Comedy Award for best sketch troupe in 2012. In 2013, they repeated that win and added a CCA for best play for Peter n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies. Still, Carlone says, “I’ve been in situations where I’m like, ‘Oh boy! Do these people not really care about me!’ That can happen with the comedy stuff because we’re going to big festivals and we’re meeting big people, big stars, and you’re like, ‘I do not matter right now.’ It’s frustrating, especially if you have a great deal of respect for these people. You try to fit in and you try to act like it doesn’t matter, but it’s boiling under the surface. So I like that about Tom.”
Carlone may have to get used to the idea that he has higher status than he assumes. Besides collecting the Canadian Comedy Awards, Peter n’ Chris have won a whack of Fringe Festival prizes. And at this year’s Jessies, Carlone’s career took another turn when he snagged the supporting-actor trophy in the large-theatre stream for his work as Ellard, a mentally challenged man, in Pacific Theatre’s The Foreigner. (He’s revisiting the role in the Arts Club tour of that production in February and March.) Carlone has been writing for CBC Radio’s The Irrelevant Show for the past three seasons. Peter n’ Chris are working on a new web series, a takeoff on the Hardy Boys called Hardly Men. And Carlone wants to get into directing more digital projects.
Although he identifies as a beta male, Carlone is clearly a confident—and productive—guy who is building a solid career out of exploring low status.
Staircase Theatre presents Hunter Gatherers at Havana Theatre from Thursday (October 30) through November 15.