Edward Albee’s “At the Zoo” was the first play written by the man who has become one of America’s most important playwrights. Theatrethreesixty’s production of the play is a powerful and gripping look at the animal nature in all of us sitting comfortably beneath our skin.
This one-act story revolves around the meeting of strangers in Central Park and ends when transient and slightly deranged Jerry entices the well-off, upper east side married man Peter to the brink of depravity, ending in, well … sorry, no spoilers.
This production, part of the 2014 Georgetown Festival, is minimalistic at its core. Director Christopher Ling creates a simple design and uses a light hand, allowing the dialogue and the terrific performances by Matthew Ong and Azzad Mahdzir to say all that there is to be said. Mahadzir shines, especially with this being his first major role. The intensity displayed was gripping, and it brought home plenty of themes for the audience to think about – which any self-respecting drama is expected to do!
The opening act, “At Home”, written as a sort of prequel to “At the Zoo” by Albee more than four decades after the zoo’s debut, also has solid performances, especially by Rosheen Fatima who plays the wife looking for a little spark in her marriage with Peter. But, without a doubt, “At the Zoo” is the star of the show.
The unfortunate aspect of this production is the facility. I’m not sure if it was the Georgetown Festival which arranged the room at Whiteaway’s Arcade or if it was through a different arrangement, but it is not a room conducive to drama – even intimate drama. The echoes were horrendous, making it difficult to understand an actor who was no more than 10 feet away. I especially would have liked to have seen this production in a proper black-box setting.
But despite the difficulties, I recommend it to anyone who likes hard-hitting drama or who wants to see one of the plays which ushered in the absurdist genre into the modern era.
It’s playing through August 31 at Whiteaway’s Arcade in Georgetown.