AT HOME WITH VINTAGE ALBEE
A bookish New Yorker (Anthony Fusco, right) finds himself in a deep conversation with Jerry (Manoel Felciano), a complete stranger, in Central Park.
AT HOME AT THE ZOO by Edward Albee; directed by Rebecca Bayla Taichman. American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), 415 Geary Street,
AT HOME WITH VINTAGE ALBEE
Fifty years ago, master playwright Edward Albee wrote the one act play “The Zoo Story” that was the start of worldwide recognition of his genius. Since then he has earned a plethora of honors including being a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for A Delicate Balance, Seascape, and Three Tall Women ) and the Tony Award for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Zoo Story is, sorry was, often produced with Krapp's Last Tape and it was a good fit for both plays. Now that Albee has written a prequel to Zoo Story, he will not allow it to be performed without the prequel.
A well-known Albee quote, “I'm not suggesting that the play is without fault; all of my plays are imperfect, I'm rather happy to say-it leaves me something to do” is sufficient justification for act one of “At Home at the Zoo.” Zoo Story, a two hander, initially titled “Peter and Jerry” is essentially a monolog in which the character, Jerry, doing most of the talking while pipe-smoking dilettante book editor Peter is the sounding board.
Jerry: Do you mind if we talk? This leads into Jerry’s beautifully written and frightening diatribe that ends in a cataclysmic and ambiguous ending. Although Albee packs Peter’s informative short dialogs with sub-rosa meaning, we are given only snatches of Peter’s character while learning about his physical surroundings at home.
Thus, we have the prequel to confirm what we conjecture from the original play. Homelife, the new opening act, confirms that he has two daughters, two parakeets, two cats and no dog and lives a bland passive life. Similar to early dialog in Zoo Story, Albee telegraphs impending conflict when wife Ann states: “We should talk.” The setting is their monochromatic minimalist
Director Rebecca Bayla Taichman keeps dramatic tensions high with Rene Augesen’s luminous controlled demeanor suggesting trouble in paradise is about to erupt. In the first act, Anthony Fusco does give Peter’s character the necessary uncertainty displayed in act two but seems to lack the undercurrent of danger in Albee’s words. It is Manoel Feliciano, as the hyperkinetic Jerry that steals the show. His rambling life story filled with his encounters with the world in general, a vicious dog and horny, alcoholic landlady in particular are brilliant
Accolades to Robert Brill for the pitch perfect minimalist sets. The decision, in act two, to use only a green background without specific foliage allows Albee’s words to dominate the stage. Albee’s dialog is music to the ears even when his meaning and innuendo can be shocking.
Running time less than two hours. Well worth seeing.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of TheatreworldInternetMagazine.com