Wednesday, 29 January 2003

What is it Zach ? and Daddy Wolf by James Purdy, Jan 29, 2003

 What is it Zach ? / Daddy Wolf  by James Purdy
 Chapel off Chapel
Wed 29 Jan to Sat 8 Feb, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

From the 1980's, Lindzee Smith  lived in New York and staged short plays by James Purdy. What is it Zach? And Daddy Wolf is a product of Smith's long love affair with Purdy's writing. This short play is a collision of a short story and a play by Purdy. It is unstated which of the two is the dramatic text.

However, we might presume it is the dialogue between Zach,   Lindzee Smith ) a war veteran, and his amateur housekeeper-cook, Pete (Nicholas Politis ). The combination of the two produces a gritty, intimate, sometimes funny play.

Wilfred Last's  portrayal of the hapless Benny,  is a fine study in despair and survival of the working class in New York.
 His ruined face, skinny frame and versatile voice creates a complete workld even though we see Benny only in a phone box attached to a handset.

Smith and Politis may not quite master the New York accents nor the detail in acting but they are committed and interesting to watch. They relationship between cook and veteran is dangerous, warm and compelling.

One exceptional element in the show is the musician. Ashley Gaudion.  His jazzy piano, sultry saxophone and chaotic soundscape are essential to the impact.

Smith, who also directed the play, keeps the pace smooth and the intersections slick between the world of Benny and that of Zach and Pete.

Benny raves as he waits for an operator-connected call in the heady streets of the Big Apple. Slowly he unpeels his life for us. He worked in a mitten factory. The holes in the linoleum in his apartment are home to a family of rats.  Ironically, his family left him because of the rats - and the rising rate of venereal disease in the city.

Meanwhile, Pete, who lied his way into the job as private cook for Zach, slaves cooking delicious, inventive meals for Zach who abuses him. The status shifts between the pair constantly until they finally reconcile.

These two threads of narrative are a capsule of  life in New York and of the heightened emotion of deprivation, loneliness and loss.

By Kate Herbert

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