Sunday, November 25, 2007

Peter and Jerry

This is about as perfect a production of The Zoo Story as can be. Not only does it have the deft conversationalist, Dallas Roberts (who I last saw in A Number), but it has an elegant balance for him in the stuffily polite Bill Pullman, one of the best squirmers around. And Edward Albee loves to make his characters squirm through his sly eruptions of the animal hiding within our (hu)mundanity. However, this isn't just The Zoo Story; it's also the far more artificial Homelife, a prologue that, despite the giggly warmth of Johanna Day, only serves to show how much better The Zoo Story is. Homelife has been clearly written to fit the world already established so succinctly within The Zoo Story, in which Peter (Pullman) is pulled out of the safety of his textbooks and into the real world, forced to actually fight for something real, no matter how trivial. As a result, Albee limits himself in Act I to slight foreshadowing and obvious parallels (just as Jerry gains loss through his encounter with a vicious dog, Peter is shown to have the same safe indifference with his wife). Even the plot seems like it's recycled from Philip Roth's "The Breast," another tale in which a mental malady takes on a physical condition (Peter is concerned that his penis is retreating). Homelife is by no means a bad play, and if that's what it takes to deepen our connection to The Zoo Story, I'll gladly sit through it again. But I'd rather just watch the way Roberts humanizes Jerry, with slow caresses of English, a childishly high pitched voice, and a nervous quaver to his otherwise assertive probing. What a magnificent interpretation, with not an awkward moment of silence (Pam MacKinnon uses it all up in the first act) between two real animals.

[Also blogged by: Patrick | David]

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