If you like your theatre experience short and powerful, take a trip to Mixed Magic Theatre at 999 Main St. in Pawtucket and be mesmerized for an hour and 10 uninterrupted minutes. A New York City park bench and two fine actors is all that is needed to transform Edward Albee’s one-act play into a gut-wrenching experience.
Rich Morra plays Peter a well-off professional New Yorker who likes to spend a quiet afternoon reading in the park. Jerry, an underprivileged man from a poor neighborhood wanders into his “space,” chatting casually and telling Peter that he had been to the zoo.
Jerry slowly and insidiously moves into Peter’s space and time, asking probing questions, revealing his own background, and telling him a long story about his landlady’s dog. The conversation grows more intense as Jerry explores the closeness between kindness and cruelty, making the somewhat condescending Peter very uneasy and eventually threatened. As the intensity mounts, Jerry leaves Peter with an unthinkable option, leading to a shocking conclusion to a play that raises numerous questions about loneliness, despair and the needs of others.
Tom Chace’s Jerry is the central figure, moving like a predator from a quiet, casual human being to a threatening animal and bringing out the animal in the quiet Peter. Rich Morra plays off Chace perfectly, reacting at first with disinterest and ultimately with fear.
I’ve seen the play before, often coupled with another one-act play, like Epic’s “Betrayal.” Standing alone, it provides one intense hour of theatre, thanks to some tight directing by Matt Fraza.
“The Zoo Story” plays through May 19 at the beautifully reconstructed Mixed Magic theatre space in the old Hope Mills, only a short distance from the West Bay area. Tickets are $12-$20. For reservations and more information call 305-7333 or go online at www.mmtri.com.