By Crystal Wood
Edward Albee’s first play The Zoo Story is a conversation between two strangers who meet on a park bench. So Red One Theatre decided to forego actually renting theatre space and carting around a bench prop, and is staging it on park benches across the city throughout September.
And it works. Okay, it mostly works, but the company can hardly be blamed for the Air Show flying overhead, can they?
The Zoo Story is a… well, story about two people who meet on a park bench in New York’s Central Park. There’s Peter (Brenhan McKibben), a publisher with a wife, two kids, and two parakeets. And there’s Jerry, a disheveled nobody who lives in a cramped boarding house. In other words, order meets disorder.
Making a last desperate attempt to reach out to someone, Jerry tells Peter the “Dog Story” and the “Zoo Story,” which become not simply about animals but metaphors for love and death. As Jerry becomes increasingly unbalanced, the play escalates to an intense surprise ending, which my friend Matt and I agreed was terrific. (You didn’t think I’d tell you what it is, did you?)
Tyrone Savage plays Jerry with lots of energy and skill. This is really Jerry’s story, and Savage handles his many long monologues well. Brenhan McKibben does a decent job as Peter, capturing the character of the bookish fellow who doesn’t like getting his feathers ruffled. McKibben’s voice doesn’t carry as well as Savage’s in the outdoor space, but it grows – as his part does – towards the end of the play. Both actors kept up their concentration well, despite the interruptions that can come with an outdoor space – the dogs barking, car engines roaring, and did I mention the Air Show?
At a brief 50 minutes, The Zoo Story is a nice way to spend an autumn night outdoors. (Traditionally, The Zoo Story is actually performed as the second act of a longer play, but not to worry, the story stands on its own.)
Matt and I are also in agreement about our least favourite part of the evening: the bug bites. I count 7, he has 4. So, bring insect repellent.
Cost: Free (a hat is passed around)
Sonya’s Park (Oxford St., east of Augusta Ave.) – Wed. Sept. 9th & Thurs. Sept. 10th Dalton Parkette (Brunswick Ave., north of Bloor St. West) – Fri. Sept. 11th & Sat. Sept. 12th
Grange Park (Beverley St., in between Dundas St. West and Queen St. West) – Sun. Sept. 13th & Mon. Sept. 14th
De Grassi Street Park (De Grassi St., at Dundas St. East) – Wed. Sept. 16th & Thurs. Sept. 17th
South end of Glen Stewart Park – Friday September 18th & Saturday September 19th (Glen Manor and Queen Street East)