The Zoo Story, NihilistGELO, at Stray Dog Studios. Edward Albee’s two-man play transpires on a bench in Central Park, but the stage at Stray Dog Studios features an empire sofa, pedestal ashtray, and Japanese screen. Obviously the NihilistGELO production of this 1958 American classic will not be the standard interpretation, and it’s up to us to adjust to the circumstances.

Those circumstances also include dialogue delivered at conversational volume against an aural backdrop of urban noise–the canned variety supplied by sound artist Dieter Frank, and the actual provided by the theater’s proximity to the el. But just when we think the two players (J. Scott and John Wilson) are simply slacking, the dynamic between the characters is suddenly enlivened by one of them recounting how he once attempted, unsuccessfully, to poison a dog. Most actors in this role shrug off the lengthy yarn, but as delivered by Scott, it clearly foreshadows the violence to come.

NihilistGELO’s deliberate rejection of theatrical artifice and incorporation of dangerously realistic stage business might be expected to obscure Albee’s delicate subtext. Instead their strategy makes the play’s spiritual agony and existential despair more coherent than in other productions I’ve seen. There may be more to these artists than meets the eye. Watch them.