Zoo Story AND Black Comedy @ Meramec Community College

We squeezed in another Community College production,
this one at Meramec. Students directed two one-acts. I hadn’t seen The Zoo Story for
some time. That young man certainly had a way with words. Zoo Story gave us strong hints
of the playwright who would come up with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and all the rest
of Edward Albee’s magnificent works. Mikaila Kraft directed. Two men and a bench – what’s
to direct? But that simplicity gives you lots of choices. Jack Lehmann’s Jerry wandered
around Peter and the bench, often looking up at the Central Park trees rather than at
Peter, until he got very physical with Peter. Lehmann used the brilliant language well.
Jesse O’Freel made all the right polite moves as the middle-class publishing executive Peter,
though I felt we weren’t given enough to see develop the motivation for his sudden anger.
Director Kyra Pearson had a larger cast for Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy and the playwright’s
reversal of light and dark. We first hear voices in the dark from the stage, and it
is true that it’s more difficult to ear a person when we can’t see them. Then the power
goes off in the apartment and the stage lights go on. The characters can’t see in the dark,
but the audience can see them. They are subjected to lots of physical comedy as they fumble
in the dark. Watching them, we laugh. Will Griffin played Brindsley Miller, a young sculptor
who is preparing his apartment for a showing to a rich collector, assisted by Melanie Bantel
as his financee, whose father the colonel is also expected. They’re borrowing furniture
from Brindsley’s neighbor who is away for the weekend and has more attractive items
than the poor artist. Bill Nolan III as the fiancee’s father is a true Col. Blimp. The
elderly upstairs neighbor, alone in the dark, joins them for company, and Beth Burton masters
some fine physical comedy for her. Kalen Riley as neighbor Harold returns unexpectedly early,
so Brindsley and financee struggle in the dark to return his things to his aparment
without being discovered. Abby Cockerham as Clea, Brindsley’s former mistress, also returns
unexpectedly from Finland. Grover Smittle’s electrician shows up, as does Colin Kelley,
as the prospective wealthy client. Suddenly the lights come on in the apartment, and we
can’t see a thing. Eryn Opperman designed those lights and the complicated set, Evan
Turek did Zoo Story’s lights, Rissa Crozier the costumes and Michelle Rebollo the sound.
More good theatre from a community college.

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