Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Peter and Jerry"


If I wasn’t suffering so from a cold, I could go on and on about the amazing evening of theater that is Edward Albee’s “Peter and Jerry.” (Unfortunately, as I write these words, it is having its final performance at the Second Stage Theatre.)

Albee’s first produced play, “The Zoo Story” composes the second half of the evening. For the hour prior to intermission, Albee has written a new work designed to complement and set up the action that takes place in “The Zoo Story.”

Never having seen that previous work, I can’t say how I might have reacted to the new aspect of the work. In fact, I have the strong desire to step into a parallel universe where I can experience the night all over again, this time having first seen “The Zoo Story.” I must admit I felt a bit lost (and toyed with) during the first act. Peter (Bill Pullman) sits on a sofa in an Upper West Side apartment. His wife walks in. “We should talk,” she says. And they do. About nothing. About important things. About tragic things. About memories. About connection. About being alive. Being human.

But it’s not until the second act, when Peter has taken himself to Central Park to read on a bench and is confronted there by Jerry, a rather compelling (but obviously touched) semi-vagrant hustler who has a story he wants to tell to someone. And Peter is closest at hand.

For the next hour, Jerry entertains and harangues Peter, delving deeper into the latter’s psyche than any high-priced Manhattan therapist could ever do. The shocking and tragic denouement is still here, but with Albee’s new text, it has even more impact than I imagine “The Zoo Story” could ever have on its own.

A pity you won’t have the chance to see it, if for no other reason than to experience Dallas Robert’s absolutely staggering performance as Jerry. It is probably the single best individual performance I have seen on stage since Jefferson Mayes’s Tony-winning turn in “I Am My Own Wife.”

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