Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story” explores the balance of human interaction

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The possibility of making a real, human connection with someone else is at the heart of “The Zoo Story,” a play by Edward Albee being performed in the Frear Ensemble Theater this weekend. The play will be performed on Friday, April 28, at 7 pm, Saturday, April 29 at 7 and 10 pm, and Sunday, April 30, at 7 and 10 pm. Seating is limited so it is recommended that those interested arrive early.

Directed by Ross Manson and starring Neal Dandade ’06 and Toby David ’06, the play tells the story of two men who meet in the park in New York City. Though the two are strangers, they quickly come to know one another as Jerry, played by Dandade, first tries to glean facts about Peter, played by David, then turns to telling tales of his own life.

Just as Scheherazade used stories to prolong her contact with the king and cling to life, Dundade’s Jerry is a storyteller, who carves into the play with his own experiences, trying desperately to communicate with another human being and somehow touch a separate life with his own. The stories mount as he endeavors to explain just what brought him to walk to the zoo that day, and what conclusions he has drawn from the matter.

The play is moving and rich in pathos, powerfully performed and daring in its intentions. Costumes, by Jen Roth ’07, and lighting, by Stephanie Duncan ’08 and Mikalena Wymer ’08, set the mood and the Frear Stage itself, managed by Sarah Stauffer ’09, with green grass flooring and two large park benches, has once again been transformed. The audience has been divided and arranged to face one another, just as the park benches do, suggesting both confrontation and the inevitable possibility of momentary eye contact, a fitting touch for a play deeply concerned with communication.

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