I don’t know the play, but I was looking forward to it; I think Scott and Nicholas are super talented. This is the third The Mechanicals production and these guys are developing a relationship with each other and Chris Weare.
The play is a two hander (obviously!) set on a park bench in Central Park, and it’s about the interaction between two strangers that takes a dramatic turn. Albee manages to pose a deeply philosophical issue in the text, but the characters and the action keep the idea alive and prevent the play from becoming boring or talking heads, even though the whole thing is a (pretty one-sided) conversation.
This is a very good production. Nicholas as the weedy, passive and anal publishing guy was brilliant. He spent long periods silent but he didn’t fall out of being totally present and engaged. He was really convincing and moving. Scott was explosive. OK, so the character lends itself to explosions, but he blew up really well. His performance was dynamic, physical and razor-sharp; and it’s a really difficult part. Chris‘s direction was tight and simple, letting the actors live and breathe their characters, but holding a tight rein on the rhythm of the piece.
There were a few niggly things, the biggest of which was Scott’s flawed American accent, which Big Friendly and I discussed at length after the show. He was like, “If it’s such a big deal then put yourself out there to help with accents.” My whole thing is that there are plenty of actors, voice coaches and even dialogue coaches out there who can help. If you are doing an accent piece, go get big, proper help. I mean, it should be part of your preparation. But I digress. And it wasn’t that bad. Just niggly.
The second thing drove director Chris mad as well as me and Big Friendly (and probably everybody). It was an opening night gremlin that set the park bench in the exact position of it making the most terrible squeak/grunt/shriek every time either actor moved. Big Friendly was like, “It was like a three hander with that bench!” Which I thought was hilarious, but only afterwards.
My favourite part of the evening, however, was when the lights came up on the bench and I was looking at the carvings scratched into the wood and thinking, “How cool it would be if the some of the carving looked older than the rest….” when all of a sudden I noticed, carved deeply into the wood on the right hand side of the bench in a bold but unmistakable upper case, MEG 4 FRED. I loved it. I don’t know whose idea it was (which one of the actors), but it was brilliant. Thanks guys.
PS. How’s this for an interesting titbit? I found it on Wikipedia this morning.
“According to a report on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” on Jan. 19, 2008, Albee has expanded his play “Zoo” from one act to two. The first act was first read publicly at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference. The move has raised controversy within the theater community because Albee is no longer allowing professional theater companies to mount the original play without the new first act. Non-professional and college theaters are, however, not bound by Albee’s stipulation.
In the NPR interview Albee defended the change and the addition of a female character who is Peter’s wife. Albee also noted the play was his to do as he wanted.”