Much has been written about Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, with some analysis delving deep into its meaning. Debates as to its categorization as an absurdist drama, its religious themes, and exploration of isolation and loneliness, all make for interesting post-show discussions.
Beyond any intellectual exercise The Zoo Story may illicit though, it also needs to work as theatrical entertainment. It is here where The Sticks and Stones Theatre production currently on stage at the Havana Theatre is not always successful.
While ostensibly a two-hander, there is a balance of power in Albee’s play which skews very much to Jerry. It is a role many actors relish, and Carlen Escarraga embraces the role with an obvious passion. At times electrifying, Escarraga is menacing, creepy and always seemingly in motion, managing to effectively bring this odd madman to life.
As Peter, Joshua Ackermann doesn’t always fare as well. Largely overshadowed by Escarraga’s performance, he relies at times on big reactions. Ackermann is far more successful when he isn’t called upon to respond to the absurdity of Jerry’s stories and tirades. It is in those moments of Peter’s retrospection which were the most heartfelt.
Where both find remarkable moments are in the underlying sexual tension which permeates sections. Under Brett Willis’s direction there is a wonderful subtly to how both actors handle this additional subtext in Albee’s play.
While at times uneven, the Sticks and Stones production of The Zoo Story still manages to do what Albee’s play does best by sparking some interesting post-show conversations. But is that enough?
The Zoo Story by Edward Albee. Directed by Brett Willis. A Sticks and Stones Theatre production. On stage at the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until January 13. Visit https://sticksandstonestheatre.com for tickets and information.