Edward Albee is not the kind of playwright to give you warm fuzzy feelings. From his most famous work Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to his lesser-known one act plays, Albee mercilessly examines modern relationships and his insights are not always pretty.
King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe is embracing this vision in their new production Family and Other Strangers, which features two one-acts by the playwright. The Zoo Story, directed for KCST by Leor Hackel, was Albee’s first play and features only two characters, total strangers Peter and Jerry who meet on a bench in Central Park. American Dream, directed by Emily Wilson, is a more absurdist satire of modern family life.
The plays were not written to be performed together, but directors Wilson and Hackel agree that they share similar themes. Leor explains, “It’s the idea of barriers between people. In American Dream you have people who should be close to each other but have all these barriers between them and in Zoo Story you have strangers and it’s about what happens when you knock down the barriers between strangers.”
KCST primarily produces Shakespeare plays, like Othello coming up later this year and their traditional outdoor production each spring. Although American Dream and The Zoo Story are new kinds of plays for the troupe, Wilson points out that the actors’ training in Shakespeare has been a real benefit. They are accustomed to delving deep into a text to unpack many layers of meaning, a skill that translates well to Albee’s complex texts. Producer Allie Lalonde agrees: “The actors are really impressive in the fact that they can take that absurd nature of it but at the same time make it feel very true. There are definitely specific moments in that play that areheart-wrenching and beautiful in ways you don’t necessarily expect when the play starts out.”
Both directors caution, though, that is not necessarily feel-good fare. As Wilson says, “the goal is to make people feel uncomfortable in a familiar way.”Hackel adds, “as good theatre should.” I have to agree.
Family and Other Strangers will be performed Friday November 6 at 8:00pm and Saturday, November 7 at 8:30pm in Roone Arledge Auditorium. The performances are FREE. Reserve your tickets online or at the TIC in Lerner Hall.
Darcy Zacharias, CC ’10