By Edward Albee
Directed by Toma Tavares Langston
Produced by InnateVolution Theatre Productions
At Oracle Theatre
Albee one-acts offer a mixed bag of entertainment
The initial production by InnateVolution Theatre Productions was a mixed bag with some fine moments and some clunkers. Basically, I was impressed with the innovative approach director Toma Tavares Langston took with Edward Albee’s early one acts. The decision to have actors appear both in person and as silhouettes work nicely to enhanced the images of The Zoo Story.
The Zoo Story (1958) is a two-hander with Peter (Raymond K. Cleveland) an upper middle class family man quietly reading while sitting on a park bench in Central Park. He is joined by Jerry (Casey Chapman) who is desperate to have a meaningful conversation with another human being. He starts out with loads of boyish charm as he tells his series of life stories highlighted with ‘The Jerry and the Dog Story.’ Slowly Jerry’s insanity emerges as Peter politely listens to Jerry’s diatribes.
The play explores themes of isolation, loneliness, social disparity and dehumanization in a commercial world. The action moved swiftly in the 50 minute drama that many consider among the finest one-acts ever penned for the stage. I thought that Casey Chapman was terrific as the demented loner. Unfortunately, Raymond K. Cleveland was miscast as Peter. He played the family man with two daughters and two cats and two parakeets. But Cleveland came across much to gay to be credible. The eventual confrontational scenes with Jerry simply rang hollow. Chapman’s strong, nuanced and truthful performance saved the one act for me.
The Sandbox (1960) was a complete disaster for me despite director Langston’s attempt to make this absurdest work into a TV-sitcom. I have never like this weird one act and that remains true still. The over-the-top acting that finds the actors well aware of the audience came off more as an actor’s exercise than a play. Thankfully, The Sandbox is only 15 minutes. It is Albee’s attempt to come to grips with the death of his beloved grandmother. I appreciate the cast’s effort but nothing can make The Sandbox stage worthy.
The initial effort from this new theatre company shows promise.