Three One Acts: "The Gentleman of Larkspur Lotion," adapted from Tennessee Williams, directed by Prudence Barry, with Alan Jirikowic, Barbara Jones, and Theres Aceves. "Night," by Harold Pinter, with Chris Legg and Rosemary Regan. "The Zoo Story," by Edward Albee, directed by Chris Henley, with Chris Legg and Bart Whiteman.
At the Source Theater through Oct. 11.
"The Zoo Story" is done so often by college theaters and auditioning actors that it is easy to greet yet another production of it with a yawn and a strong desire to go to the movies instead. But a powerful version of this one-act Edward Albee classic is currently playing at the Source Theatre, an excellent reminder that old saws can often be sharp.
The success of the production is largely due to the performance of Bart Whiteman in the role of Jerry, the "permanent transient" who, like a small cloud that turns into a thunderstorm, enters the life of a bourgeois publishing executive and changes it irrevocably. Whiteman, who is also the founder of Source, seems to have absorbed the character of Jerry into his skin, so seamless is his performance and so convincing his interpretation.
"The Zoo Story" was Albee's first play, and was turned down by numerous producers before it got its first production in Berlin in 1959. It has but two characters in its single act and is set in a Manhattan park on and around a bench. Peter, a young father of two, is approached by Jerry, an awkward loner. Jerry's talk is strange but eloquent, about his life in a seedy rooming house and his maddening desire to communicate -- even destructively -- with something, even a dog or a cockroach. Jerry is a mysterious figure, a man who describes a rotten childhood and a meaningless adult life, but who uses words like mythology and knows the name of Baudelaire.
The menace that surrounds him is obvious yet somehow unimportant, and Whiteman is adept at revealing his subtle torment without signaling overt despair, so that the climactic ending is still a shock. It is a deft production.
The same cannot be said, alas, of the two plays which precede it. "The Gentleman of the Larkspur Lotion," an amalgam of two plays by Tennessee Williams, fails to justify this literary cutting and pasting by either the resulting new script or the performance. If Williams is like filigree, where the beauty is in the delicacy, this production is a two-by-four. And "Night," the second play on the bill of three -- a Harold Pinter fragment about a couple's differing recollections of how they met -- is a tone poem that is soon over and just as soon forgotten.