Albee's poetic Zoo Story joined by prequel
 

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posted Friday, November 13, 2009 - Volume 37 Issue 46

Albee's poetic Zoo Story joined by prequel
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

At Home At the Zoo
Theater Schmeater
Through December 2


Theater Schmeater is currently performing At Home At the Zoo by Edward Albee. Edward Albee is one of the best-known playwrights of the 20th century. One of his best-known works is The Zoo Story, a one-act about a man sitting on a park bench in Central Park, New York City, being accosted and spoken to by a strange man given to talking to strangers. Albee wrote that play over 25 years ago and it's a classic two-person piece for college students. However, in 2007, Albee wrote a prequel and called it Homelife. Then he asked theaters to do both together, as The Schmee is doing.

The Zoo Story is mostly a long monologue from a kind of crazy street person (Alexander Samuels, who channels his inner real-life New Yorker) who purposefully provokes the man on the bench to a rage. Prior to the prequel, the man, Peter (played by J.D. Lloyd, with button-down precision), had no backstory aside from a mention of a couple of kids and a wife and liking to sit on that bench for many hours during the year. Homelife is an exchange between Peter and Ann, his wife, (played by Teri Lazzara).

Homelife, on its own, is not Albee's best piece. It lags a bit in its creation of a longtime marriage that is struggling to remain vital. Ann is vaguely dissatisfied, wanting Peter to "act more like an animal" - but just "sometimes" - along with many protestations of love and "happiness." Peter is typically clueless, though he eventually confesses to an uneasy feeling about his penis re-growing its foreskin - or his penis shrinking, more likely, due to age. It's a startling confessional that Albee tries to use to create more intimacy with the couple.

What Homelife does do is make The Zoo Story more vital and make Peter someone you feel much more akin to as he goes to relax and sit on his bench. So, Homelife's effect is definitely to make The Zoo Story better. The payoff of the second half then becomes even stronger.

Lazzara and Lloyd work at making the first act meaningful, and may yet find something deeper to say with it, given a few more performances. The second act, however, is definitely more interesting when we have more knowledge of Peter as a person, and Lloyd's understanding of that character helps him respond to Jerry, the street person, more realistically. When Peter refuses to give up the bench, his "ownership" comes from a stronger attachment. Prior to the first act, Jerry's demand for the bench, and his threatening manner, seems to suggest Peter should just give up and get away. Now, Peter has more reason to stay and make a stand to keep his territory.

Samuels, as Jerry, makes the second act his own, getting stranger and stranger as the act goes along. It's passionate poetry describing why a man goes the long way 'round to get back to where he was heading.

In addition to Albee, Theater Schmeater is also performing An Oak Tree (Mondays through Wednesdays). It is an enigmatic, fascinating experiment that involves an actor playing a hypnotist who has "lost his mojo" acting with another actor who has neither seen nor read the play before. Due to the probability of ruining the experience by explaining it, it's best just to say, "Go see it!" You may even want to see it more than once, since every new actor who takes the challenge will respond differently. You will likely find it more accessible than most "performance art" pieces, though it's as experimental as any edgy theater piece you're likely to see. For more information, go to www.schmeater.org or call 206-324-5801.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.



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