Tuesday, 2 March 2004

The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, March 2.2004

The Zoo Story by Edward Albee
 Theatreworks, 14a Acland St. St. Kilda,  March 2 to  13, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Zoo Story is one of celebrated American playwright, Edward Albee's, finest short works.

It is an exploration of maleness, social status and the collision of two unlikely and disparate lives in a park. This production eliminates comfortably the Americanisms of the original and localises the language.

Albee's writing is pithy disturbing and often hilarious. Intelligent, wry cynical and darkly humorous, particularly for the central character, Jerry (Tom Healey).

 Greg Ulfan directs the play with a firm and dramatic hand, maintaining intense dramatic tension through out and focussing on the relationship between the characters.

Healey and Damien Donovan  (Peter)  perform with finesse on a stage that is bare but for a single wooden park bench.

This is an intensely actorly performance infused with passion and poignancy. Healey plays Jerry a peculiar, unstable, homeless transient who has an unexpected power wisdom and awareness.

Jerry accosts Peter who sits reading on a bench in the park on a quiet Sunday. What transpires is like the peeling of an onion or opening a Russian Doll. As Jerry reveals his tormented inner world step by painful step, Peter is drawn further into his orbit.

The stage is Healey's. We are riveted by his character from the moment he appears perched like a creature of prey, peering at Peter and poised for attack. Healey's broad dynamic range and portrayal of Jerry's apparent weirdness and intermittent normality are exceptional. His timing is impeccably. And he gives Jerry great sympathy and a ragged dignity.

An emotional roller coaster reveals the loss of Jerry's parents, his aloneness, his sordid, soulless boarding house and his cryptic visit to the zoo that day.

Donovan is a fine support for Healey and portrays Peter, the stitched up, middle class I.T. executive with a rigid reserve.

His is an ordinary, suburban life with a wife, two girls, two cats and two budgies. His attentiveness to Jerry becomes our attentiveness. We are aware that an accident of fate placed Jerry, not Peter, in the hollow, strange, half-lit world Jerry inhabits. We care about both of these mismatched characters.

Despite our attitude toward Jerry seesawing between fear and sympathy and the escalating conflict between them, we want a happy ending. The Zoo Story is a fine piece of theatre.

LOOK FOR: The finale of Jerry's black dog and burger story.

By Kate Herbert

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