Sunday 7 August 2022

"The Zoo Story" staged in Mumbai (Khar) by Jeff Goldberg Studio on 30.7.2022

 "Mind that you are an animal and not a vegetable"

The world is like a zoo that is full of various kind of animals, man is one of them. All animal interact with each other in some way or other. So it is not a surprise if the relation between two different animals goes to any extent.  Though the settings in which this play moves may be highly obnoxious to the Indian audience with a conservative bent of mind as far as normalcy in sexual behavior is concerned one should know that the behavioural aberrations shown is just intended to invigourate the theme of social disparity. It is certainly not a sex story. Once you get cosy with this point the play is a prize for your intellectual eyesight.       

A mid-aged gentleman Peter comes to the park and perches on a bench to relax. Soon, a younger man Jerry enters the park who is desperate to communicate with someone. On the contrary to Peter's normal life with wife and daughters Jerry's life is scrappy. So stark is the difference between both that they seem to be the two opposite poles. Jerry protrudes his conversation into the calm of Peter who condescends to respond.

Jerry calls Peter a vegetable as he thinks, no animal can live in that highly structured and stereotyped manner. The disparity emanates from all angles- economic, social, moral and family-conditions. The teen-aged Jerry says it is unbearable for me to spend two nights with the same girl. Moreover he insinuates that  other things can also substitute a lover girl and even more  preferably. He keeps on spitting fire with his monologue onto the vulnerable Peter. Peter somehow bears all the nonsense hoping Jerry will stop his chatter. 
Jerry says he lives in a highly congested, too small and unhygienic shady room. He keeps on giving the ghastly details of how he has been misused by the ugly old misbehaved landlady on routine basis. Also, how the landlady's pet dog tries to take a toll on him everyday by chasing him like a drunken lustful man behind his wife. Once he tried to poison this obstinate creature but to no avail. 

Peter feels abhorrent and wants to keep himself aloof from these rubbish details. But he can't. He is put under such a compulsion that he himself witness a heinous crime of murder committed by his own hand.

The plot fascinates for it's unconventional storyline. The playwright Edward Albee has used uncanny symbols. The bench is not just a bench, it is the life-space of the society from where a complacent gentleman is ousted giving way to the deprived one. The knife is not just a knife it is a Freudian symbol. Every viewer was aghast when Jerry popped out his knife, waved and threw it on the ground. But soon it was clear that he is not going to kill Peter and rather ... .?? To get pierced  by someone on one's own belly with a knife actually signifies to a psychoanalytic. This is proved by the fact  that Jerry is screaming not in grief but with a satisfaction.

The director Kashyap Shangari had successfully turned a two-men play into a double-role solo acting. Moreover he seemed to be in full rage by making his only female actor to play both diametrically opposite male characters at a time. And the actor Swagata Naik carried it out. Her countenances, postures and voice-modulation went well with a despotic character searching for his own existence in a vast weird world called society. The killer's instinct kept oozing out her eyes incessantly just conveying "I too exist with some zoological desires. I am certainly not a plant without a mind and heart". The other character of a civilised gentleman had comparatively less to show still a justice was done with this passive character too that was essential to intensify the vigour of the other main character. The solo actor enacted that also in a natural way thanks to her director's instructions. The set-design was ok.                
Article by - Hemant Das ' Him'
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