The Zoo Story is Edward Albee’s first play, written in 1958. This one-act play, allegedly completed in just three weeks, concerns two characters, Peter (David Crosby), and Jerry (Stephen O’Toole) who meet in New York’s Central Park.

The play opens to the background of ‘Summertime’ with a man sat on a park bench on a sunny Sunday afternoon, reading a book and smoking a pipe. Another man approaches, and his repeating of the phrase ‘I’ve been to the zoo’, each time louder and more confrontational, serves as a prelude of what is to follow.

The contrast between the two characters couldn’t be any more different and as the conversation unravels, Peter, an apparently happily married man with two children, a cat, and a couple of parakeets, sits in contrast to Jerry who is clearly alone, unstable, and angry. The sixty minutes are played out in real-time and cover a range of topics including money and family, homosexuality and power, and as the conversation twists and turns with each attempting to understand, and perhaps outwit, the other, the intensity heightens to its dramatic and unforeseen ending.

This is a play that asks more questions than it answers, in typical Albee fashion, and as you leave the theatre, one can’t help but note that even though this play was written almost 60-years ago, these unanswered points – isolation; loneliness; class difference - sadly still resonate today. We all live busy lives but I’d highly recommend you spare an hour to absorb this funny, charming, and saddening story.

O’Toole is captivating and alarming in equal measure as Jerry, with his mood swings and outbursts often offset by his return to a cheerful exterior albeit with an accompanying reduction in his self-esteem; Crosby’s Peter is gentler and more polite, yet is stirred into a more resolute response to the challenges suddenly laid before him. Both maintain believable New York accents throughout, reflecting their backgrounds and respective locations within the city, which adds to the credibility of this piece.

Meerkat Productions is newly formed and has been working closely with Burjesta Theatre (http://www.burjesta-theatre.co.uk/home/) over the last few months as it establishes a presence in Liverpool.

The Casa Bar and Venue at 29 Hope Street is at the heart of the University/Theatre district of Liverpool between the world-famous Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals. It was set up in the aftermath of the Liverpool Dockworkers dispute and was established as an Industrial and Provident Society in 1998 with the objectives of relieving poverty, sickness and hardship and advancing education in Merseyside. Further details available at http://www.initiativefactory.org/

Tonight’s production is part of Liverpool Fringe 2017, full details of productions by Burjesta and other companies at either The Casa or a number of other venues throughout Liverpool can be found at http://liverpoolfringe.co.uk/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 20th June 2017

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