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Theater Review: "Zoo Story"

“Zoo Story” runs through November 12, 2017 at Pioneer Park, 1521 Washington Place in Mission Hills.
Photo credit:
Dmitri Diakov

Edward Albee, one of America’s finest playwrights, died a year ago. In honor of the 60th anniversary of his first play, San Diego Actors Theatre presents “Zoo Story” through Nov. 12 in a very fitting place: Pioneer Park in Mission Hills. Patricia Elmore Costa directs.

The audience sits in the shade of an enormous tree on the south side of the park as Fred Harlow and Byron LaDue play out the one-act piece about two men who meet at a park bench near the zoo in New York’s Central Park.'Peter (Harlow), well dressed and obviously a man of some substance, walks in from the west side, sits on the bench and opens his book. This is what he does on a Sunday morning, it seems, nothing out of the ordinary. He regards this as His Bench.

From the east side, another presence approaches. This is Jerry (LaDue), dressed casually, even sloppily, in pants and a shirt. He has a mustache and a one-inch goatee.

Peter does not look up, but pulls a pipe out of his pocket and starts to light it. Jerry’s unsolicited comment that Peter won’t get lung cancer, but mouth cancer prompts Peter to put the pipe away.

Peter clearly wants to be left alone. Jerry definitely wants to talk. These two mismatched humans will spend the next 75 or so minutes not communicating but talking at each other. Or rather, Jerry will talk while Peter tries to find a graceful way to get this man off “his” bench.

This is theatre of the absurd. Both characters are victims of isolation and alienation; each is quick to judge the other. It is an example of virtuosic acting (especially from LaDue, who does most of the talking) and of the overwhelming sadness of these two people, who don’t like but somehow need each other.

Harlow tells his story mostly with eloquent face and body language. LaDue’s Jerry runs off at the mouth with some of Albee’s longest, funniest and finest monologues.

Jerry is grateful to at least have an audience, however unwilling.

“Zoo Story” is a terrifically entertaining short play, albeit a shocker at the end.

The details

“Zoo Story” runs through November 12, 2017 at Pioneer Park, 1521 Washington Place in Mission Hills.

Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: sdactorstheatre.net or at the park ($20, cash only)