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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Engaging Performances in
A Pinter/Albee Duet
at Theatre Rhinoceros

Also see Richard's reviews of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
and Relativity

Theatre Rhinoceros concludes its 26th season as America's longest running lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender theatre company with the world premiere one act A Pinter/Albee Duet, comprised of The Collection by Harold Pinter and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee. Both are superbly directed by Neal H. Shorstein. He has cast top flight actors in this scintillating one act combination.

Albee's The Zoo Story opens the two hour (with intermission) production. This was Edward Albee's debut work, written in 1958. The conversation piece was declared a ground-breaking work for the American theatre. This is a risky 60 minute drama since it demands an especially talented actor in the fast talking solo part of lonely 40-ish Jerry. Shorstein has found an actor who is superb; Tim Hendrixson, one of the Bay Area's excellent actors is mesmerizing in the role of the rambling outburst misanthrope Jerry. For almost the entire time, Hendrixson is in a verbal pas de deux that keeps you glued to the words.

A Pinter/Albee DuetThe Zoo Story takes place on a park bench in Central Park where every Sunday Peter (Ross Pasquale), a quiet and unassuming young man in his 20s sits on his favorite bench and reads. Peter is a publishing executive living very well in an apartment on the Upper East Side with his wife and two daughters. He likes to escape from his wife who only talks of mundane stuff like cats, their birds and their marriage of seven years.

Jerry, a repulsive and unkempt misogynist, confronts Peter on his way back from the Zoo. Jerry begins an almost unstoppable monologue about his life in a strange rooming house in lower Manhattan and his relationship with a vicious dog in his boarding house entranceway. Peter feels sorry for the disheveled person and listens as the man continues his nonstop outburst. It is an amazing experience to watch this gifted performer use his words to frighten and give comfort to Peter. Pasquale as Peter, on the other hand, displays all of the proper mannerisms of a listener and reacts well to the ravings of Jerry. The conversation turns to confrontation as the play ends on a tragic note.

[This could be one of the last times you will be able to see The Zoo Story as a single one act play since The Hartford Company is presenting the world premiere of Albee's Peter and Jerry this month. The first act is entitled Homelife, which is mostly a conversation between Peter and wife about inane subjects as the cats, the parakeets, sex, kids and parasites. The second act will incorporate The Zoo Story.]

Harold Pinter's The Collection is a 60 minute unsettling vignette depicting a household wobbling with the tremor of adultery. This is one of the playwright's 1960s television plays that was revived on the BBC in 1976 with Lawrence Olivier, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren and Malcolm McDowell. It was also revived in 1978 at the Donmar Warehouse with Mr. Pinter playing the old queen.

The drama involves a possible adulterous affair between Bill (Ross Pasquale), who is the "rent boy" of wealthy rag trade business man Harry (Tim Hendrixson), and Stella (Megan Biolchini), wife of a very jealous and bombastic James (Nick Sholley). Bill is a dress designer who has been up in Leeds attending a showing and could have or could not have had an overnight sexual encounter with Stella. Bill is apparently a homosexual who first admits to an affair and then denies it, stating they had a three hour conversation in the lobby of the hotel in Leeds. Harry, the older queen, is apparently very jealous of what could have happened. James confronts Bill and is very jealous. So what did happen?

Director Neal Shorstein says it best. "The challenge for each audience member is not only to decide for themselves whether they 'did it' or not, but to decide what each character has to gain or lose from each possibility. This is a play in which a gay couple deals with issues that are not inherently unique to being homosexual but rather are universal struggles in any relationship; infidelity, trust, power and control, manipulation."

All of the action takes place on a split level stage with the right side being the apartment of James and Stella and the left side the abode of Harry and Bill. The complete cast gives engagingly smooth performances with spot on British accents. The action between both sets works very efficiently. The centers of attention are Ross Pasquale and Nick Sholley, who have the more showy roles. Both interact well with each other using crisp British accents and great timing between the lines. It's damn good Pinter conversation. Megan Biolchini is very good in the small role of the wife, and Hendrixson provides an excellent portrayal of the elderly upper class English gentleman, which is a far cry from his role in The Zoo Story.

A Pinter/Albee Duet plays through May 30 at the Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th Street, San Francisco, Ca For tickets call 415-861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org.

The new season opens on August 13 with Marga Gomez's Intimate Details. The camp play Awe About Eve starring Martin Matthew in the Bette Davis role will be at the downstairs studio in June.


Photo: David Wilson


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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