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Crimson Masque to perform Albee's 'The Zoo Story' May 2-3

Alex Nall

Edward Albee’s one-act play “The Zoo Story” will be performed at Monmouth College May 2 – 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Free and open to the public, the Crimson Masque production will be staged outdoors on the Quad near the Huff Athletic Center. In case of rain, the performance will be moved to the WIT Studio Theater in the Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center.
Albee’s drama focuses on two men who meet on a Central Park bench. Peter, a normal everyday person with a job, a wife and two children, will be played by junior Mike Bennett of Monmouth. Sophomore Chase Mowery of Fairbury will portray Jerry, a disheveled, odd man who meets Peter and engages in conversation with him. Through the course of an hour, Jerry shares with Peter his view on humanity, a rambling story about a menacing dog, and ultimately, changes Peter’s life forever. Jerry interrogates, criticizes and abuses Peter, to the point where he is asked to fight for what he believes in. Although a short work, “The Zoo Story” asks big questions.

Albee wrote the play (his first) in three weeks after quitting his job as a banker. It opened in Berlin in 1959 and to critical success in New York in 1960. Albee quickly became recognized as a pioneer of American absurdist drama. The recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes for drama, he is also known for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Bennett was the lead actor in last semester’s “Dog Sees God” and played multiple roles in last month’s “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.” When asked what was challenging about the role, and the play in general, he responded, “Mostly staying engaged and maintaining the scene.” He added that although performing outdoors makes it more naturalistic, more focus from the actors is required.

To prepare for the role, Bennett read Albee’s 2009 prequel to “The Zoo Story,” titled “At Home At the Zoo,” a small one-act that provides more insight into Peter’s background. He also said he wrote his lines on sheets of paper as a way to memorize them.

Having to recite a seven-page monologue at one point in the production, Mowery remarked, can be described in one word: “Intimidating.” He also said “The Zoo Story” is different from other MC productions in which he’s had roles. “The intensity in this play is unmatched. For a play about two guys sitting on a bench, it’s a wild ride.”

Senior Jamie Kistler of Gerlaw, recipient of the 2011 James De Young Directing Award, is directing the play. When asked why he chose Albee’s work, Kistler responded, “I wanted to present a more visceral kind of theatre experience to the campus community. I knew this script would challenge me, the actors, and the audience to reconsider the way we look at ourselves, each other and the world.”

Due to mature themes, the performance may not be suitable for young or sensitive viewers.