THE ZOO STORY, Slimtack Theatre Company, at the Side Studio. No sterile look at urban alienation, Edward Albee’s hour-long play still packs a wallop after 41 years–especially in this confrontational revival in a small storefront. Director Michael Rice expertly calibrates the danger as Peter, a middle-class publisher reading on a bench in Central Park, is pushed into an encounter by Jerry, an edgy loner bent on self-destruction.
In some ways this is a one-act revenge tragedy, though the characters are strangers to each other. Jerry wants a reason not to crave Peter’s life–birds, cats, job, wife, daughters. One of Gotham’s walking wounded, this male hustler festers in a tenement split by beaverboard walls; he loathes the landlady and her dog, which he tried to kill. Jerry connects in the only way he knows how–through wholesale aggression. Here it’s triggered by a turf war over the park bench, for Jerry the symbol of Peter’s unearned privilege.
Rice gets everything right except the homoerotic attraction that keeps Peter listening when another person would have fled. Sherman Shoemaker plays Peter, a role built from repression and reactions, with the requisite fatal curiosity. And Luis Galindo’s misfit is disturbingly right, seething with escalating menace. Jumpy, nervy, creepy, and above all needy, Galindo powerfully conveys the anger of an outsider caged in the zoo called New York City.