It’s not uncommon for Temple students to be approached by homeless people asking for money. In fact, it happens quite frequently.
But as a force of habit, you either shrug them off, or give them any dime or quarter to get them off your back.But how many people ever stop to listen to what they have to say?
Back in 1958, playwright Edward Albee wondered the same thing and came up with “The Zoo Story” – a one-act play in which an ordinary family man in Central Park meets a man unlike any other.
The play starts off with Peter, played by Mark Cairns, who is a typical man enjoying a nice day by spending it reading in Central Park. To Peter’s surprise, Jerry, played by Gene D’Alessandro, comes along and interrupts Peter by saying that he just came from the zoo.
From this point, Peter goes on the ride of his life as the eccentric Jerry tells stories that leave Peter, and the audience, flabbergasted. The play is filled with sarcastic humor and dramatic suspense, leading to a stunning climax. Playing Jerry’s character is truly a difficult task and Gene D’Alessandro gives a fantastic performance.
His powerful presence on stage holds the audience in suspense throughout the whole show. The energy and passion he exudes is reflected on stage. Every word and phrase he spoke takes the audience on a journey that leaves their mouths wide open and their hair standing straight.
Of course, in order for Jerry to be a good actor, he needed a well-acted counterpart, and Mark Cairns gives a terrific performance as the man who just wanted to read. Though Peter is not as active and exciting as Jerry, Cairns plays the role of the ordinary family man very well.
The highlight of his performance comes at the astonishing ending when Cairns brings the character of Peter from the ordinary man to an unpredictable person. His acting is fluid and believable. “The Zoo Story” has been taught to playwrights
and theater actors for decades and has had a tremendous impact on the theatrical scene.
It is a play that addresses the themes of human isolation and lack of communication. Both actors bring Albee’s masterpiece to life in an unforgettable performance. Once you see this performance you may be more intrigued by the person on the street who asks you for a quarter – or you may just dread them. Let “The Zoo Story” help you decide.
Be sure to spend a night with Peter and Jerry at the Red Room in the Society Hill Playhouse, located at 507 S. 8th St. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The shows will play now until Nov. 19.
Dan Cappello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.