The Zoo Story

The Zoo Story.

State Theatre Company - The Space Theatre.  26 May to 4 June, then on tour.

In 1958 Edward Albee penned The Zoo Story as a reflection of a society which was experiencing increasing division between rich and poor. The writing explores the themes of inequality, fear, loneliness, sexuality and culture. To this day Albee has never stopped updating it, and now in his 80s continues to refine and alter this amazing script. Albee gives evidence to the saying, “there is no such thing as a final draft”.

The play tells the story of strangers Jerry and Peter and a chance meeting one afternoon in Central Park, New York City. Jerry lives on the ‘wrong’ side of town in a bed share, and Peter on the right side, with his wife, two daughters, cats and birds. Renato Musolino as Jerry and Brendan Rock as Peter, give wonderful life to these two very different New Yorkers. Delving deep into their characterisations, the hour long production flies by and has the audience enraptured for its entirety.

Jerry is lonely, orphaned, living in squalor and terribly unhappy. He confronts Peter who is minding his own business, reading a book in a quiet corner of the park and implores him to listen to his story. What follows is an emotional and occasionally amusing conversation which reveals their prejudices and accidentally forces them to individually grow, showing us the impact every human can potentially have on the opinions and outlook of another.

The action is perfectly paced. Musolino gives an absolutely astonishing performance, completely transforming into Jerry and leaving nothing of Renato behind. Rock perfectly complements in his portrayal of Peter, showing a great mix of pride and vulnerability.

Cassandra Backler has designed a transportable set (for the touring portion of the show) which wonderfully delineates the space in its most basic form. A giant 50s style pop-up book is both stage and backdrop, with views of the buildings of New York depicted from inside the park looking out. The only other set pieces are two park benches on which all of the action takes place.

This show is part of the education in schools program and included a question and answer session after the performance. It was a great opportunity to hear more about how the performers prepared for their parts, and the motivations they created for themselves to justify their characters actions.

Directed by Catherine Fitzgerald it is clear that very definitive decision’s had been made about the characters and that the actors clearly understood them. A terrific show which does leave you asking “why?” and which is guaranteed to give you plenty to talk about after.

Paul Rodda