Perhaps the most remarkable thing about playwright Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story" is that he wrote it over a span of three weeks. Even more remarkable is how well the script holds up. The material is still timely and the characters even more likely to meet than they might have when the play was written in 1958.Volcanic Theatre, which brought us Bobby Gould in Hell, made only two minor changes to the original script for the performance at the Silver Moon. One is adding Stephen King as one of the bookish character Peter's favorite writers and the other is having his annual salary pegged at $200,000 rather than the $50,000 in the original.
This is an actor's play, a vehicle to explore a range of emotions and ideas. It's a study of the human condition contrasting the off-balance, street-wandering Jerry with the well-established, well-heeled Peter.
Both Derek Sitter, as Jerry, and Don Tompos, as Peter, deliver superb performances. They don't play at acting - they act. They breathe life into their characters making them truly believable.
Sitter could have easily over-played Jerry,making him into a paper figure out of a Hollywood B movie. Instead, he subtly maneuvers between his character's many mood swings. Sitter's often feverish twitching adds strength and animation to the highs and the lows of the insightful yet damaged Jerry.
Tompos also keeps his character in check, opting to make Jerry almost bland, but not boring. Yet in the end, it's Peter who comes unhinged - a man startled by his rage. Tompos deftly delivers this shift in character..
Delivering the play to a good-sized audience at the Silver Moon brewpub only augmented the feel of the play, which, could otherwise come off as contrived. At Silver Moon, however, it was if two people walked in off the street and played out a part of their lives in front of us.
For longtime Bend theatergoers who have been yearning for something more challenging to watch, the staging of The Zoo Story is a promising sign. Kudos to Volcanic Theater for making the statement that local theater can be more than tried-and-true, easy-to-digest evergreens, musicals, comedies and mysteries.
The Zoo Story
8pm Saturdays, July 17, 24, 31
The Wine Shop and Tasting Bar,
55 NW Minnesota Ave. $10.
8pm Sunday, July 18
Silver Moon Brewing Co. 2
4 NW Greenwood Ave. Donations only.