The Zoo Story by Edward Albee

A simple concept: Peter reading on his usual park bench is approached by Jerry, a bizarre young man full of questions and stories. One big question arises throughout the show: what has Jerry done at the zoo? We will have to wait until the very end before we are clued in. Despite this unassuming description, the play is a bundle of tension and intrigue, while also tragic. Despite this, it does not lose its moments of levity, though these do not always land as they could. A continuous eerie noise in the background immediately sets the tension, though this does inhibit the growth in tension that should be felt as the play progresses. Characterisation is strong, with the class divide between the men made obvious, save for Jerry's clothes. I cannot imagine a man renting half of a single room splashing out on a corduroy shirt.

Isolation and suspense, with plenty of stories, results in an onstage triumph

The biggest strength of the show are the performances of Paul O’Dea as Jerry and Manos Koutsis as Peter. O’Dea is phenomenal, gripping us with every word he says. The play regularly descends into Jerry monologuing, but O’Dea never loses our attention. Regardless, even with so many tales, his eyes say so much his words cannot express. The only flaw is a lack of pauses to let the power of his words reverberate and aid the flow of his speeches. Koutsis captures the smug and prideful Peter, though his reactions seem understated in the middle of the play especially. The chemistry between these performers, however, is a joy to watch, but it would be nice for O’Dea to refer to Koutsis more, allowing more interactions to ensue, where a lot of the comedy arises.

While the climax comes across slightly anticlimactically, the ending itself is haunting and makes the build-up – that is, the whole play – feel very satisfying. Undoubtedly you will leave the theatre feeling deflated and quiet, perhaps wordless.

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The Blurb

Written in 1958, this one-act play thrust Albee's voice into the theatrical limelight. Described as an absurdist drama, The Zoo Story deals with themes of loneliness and isolation, yearning for connection, repression, familial trauma and the neat de-humanisation of modern life. In Central Park, two men from very different walks of life meet randomly on a sunny Sunday afternoon. They strike up a conversation and share a little about their lives. Their conversation takes turns into farce, verbal sparring, empathy, intimacy and even violence. Ultimately neither of them will ever be the same again.

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