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September 10, 1977 - Image 6

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-09-10

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r 10, 1977-The Michigan Daily

ho let 'Zoo Keeper' out of cage?

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THE ZOO KEEPER
Cast
Lisa Aseltine ................... Lisa Finkle
Bradley Aseltine............ .... .Bob BIreck
Gwen Aseltine......... e....... Aileen Mengel
Michael Dobson.............. Brian Connelly
Colette Miller............... ..... Lois Lintner
Rose Tilson........ .........Thelma Sterling
Rodney Jawaraki.................Geoffrey Fine
By Carol Duffy
[Lights: Mike Housefield Costumes: Eric Losey;
Set: Don Stewart.
Company of the Ann Arbor Civic Theater
By JOANNE KAUFMAN
A few weeks ago, Walter Kerr wrote a
column on the plight of critics. Most
people don't believe there is such a
thing (critics? a plight? but Kerr was
quick to disagree. Most people think
that critics go to a play or movie just
hoping it will be bad. For a bad play
means a bad review and all the bon
mots he or she has been squirreling
away for a year may fifially come to
print.

Kerr contends that he would rather
see a good play than have to write a
negative (albeit witty review. For one
thing, with that feeling of exhiliration
that comes from viewing good theater,
the review practically writes itself.
An evening at a flop is more draining
than running a marathon. And as if that.
weren't punishment enough, the critic,
is both duty- and salary-bound to crawl
back to his or her office and produce
copy.
If this' looks to you like stalling,
you're right. You see, I saw this play
last night, a bad play, see, and I don't
know what to say. I don't even have the
energy to say "a bad play saved by bad
performances," which would at least be
accurate.
The play, The Zoo Keeper, an original
by Ann Arbor's own Carol Duffy, con-
cerns a fortyish divorcee with two ob-
streperous teen-age children, a banking
job she hates, a burgeoning career as a,
free-lance writer, an interfering
mother, and a not-always understand-

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ing lover. The stuff TV sitcoms are
made of. And it may be just as good or
as bad as anything on TV, which is
praising with faint damns, sort of.
The problem is that I expect theater
to rise above the prime-time morass,
and The Zoo Keeper doesn't manage to.
In Gwen's (the divorcee scenes with
her lover Mike, there are actually lines
like "marriage can be supportive or the
most devastating force of life," I also
can't help but feel there is a problem
when the denouement of the first act in-
volves a toilet overflowing.
I should probably add here that the
audience appeared to be having an aw-
fully good time. My companion suggest-
ed to me that perhaps one needed chil-
dren of one's own to appreciate the on-
stage contretemps. That may well be
but I wanted to test it out to be sure -so
at intermission I collared a man by the
Coke machine to get his opinion.
He didn't have children but was en-
joying the play. He also noted that he
almost had children since his wife was
pregnant. ie added further that he was
scared, no doubt of having the off-
spring grow to resemble Gwen's less-
than-lovelies.
And, lately, have teenagers been por-
trayed as anything other than foul-
mouthed, oversexed, ear-to-telephone,
sloppy chimpanzees? Or mothers as
anything other than interfering
shockable creatures? No, and nothing
is different here. Every imaginable
stereotype is present, including the boo-
zy, wisecracking divorced neighbor.
The children fight. Mother and
daughter fight.
The play came to life only when Gwen
was fighting with either her mother or
her daughter. At all other times, I felt a
great effort was being made for Mean-
ing, and the result of all that Meaning
was Cliche.
I should explain here that I only sat
through one act but I had read the play
before so I knew what the outcome
would be. If I had sat through all three
acts I would be somewhat less sanguine
about the whole business and would
have insisted on borrowing at least one
of John Simon's fangs for the occasion. .
It was an embarrassment to sit in the
audience and watch Duffy's inadequa-
cies as a playwright exposed so blatant-
ly. This is her fourth produced work and
perhaps it was too close to her own ex-
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perience to write about convincingly.
Beginning writers should neve" write
too closely to what they know, though
they are always enjoined to do so.
When the material is not good, it is a
bit hard to assess the actors. Brian Con-
nelly as Mike gave a nice measured
performance and Thelma Sterling as
Gwen's mother was appropriately ag-
gravating. Everyone else appeared to
be trying awfully hard - Collette (the
neighbor to be brittle, Gwen to be har-
ried.
Regrettably, the theme song, com-
posed by Dianne Baker and sung by
Judy Manos was inaudible, due
whether to technical difficulties or to
the chattering of the audience. Now if
only the audience had kept silent for the
song and saved its chattering for the
play. Rats.

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about the United States."
The New York Times Book Review
"This extraordinary hightmare phantasmagoria
comes heralded by the highest literary praise."
-Publishers Weekly
"Not just the novel of the year-it may be the
novel of the decade."
-THEODORE SOOTAROFF. Editor of American Review
A RICHARD SEAVER BOOK
A Literary Guild Alternate Selection
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° THE VIKING PRESS

Zo
dead
at
62

PHILADELPHIA (UPI) - Zero
Mostel, a practical joker who want-
ed to be an artist and wound up a
Broadway star, died Thursday night
at Thomas Jefferson Hospital at the
age of 62.
He was reported "recuperating
comfortably" and in "satisfactory
condition" just hours before his sud-
den death at 7:47 p.m.
A hospital spokesman said Mgstel,
admitted to the hospital Saturday
with an apparent virus infection of
the upper respiratory tract, died of
cardiac arrest. He was in Philadel-
phia to star as Shylock in the Arnold
Wesker production "The Merchant"
- a variation of Shakespeare's
"Merchant of Venice."
Mostel was born Samuel Joel
Mostel on Feb. 28, 1915, in Brooklyn,
N.Y., one of eight children of a poor
orthodox rabbi.
He was hailed as brilliant, not only
in "Fiddler," but also in "A Funny
Thing Happened on the Way to the
Forum," in "Ulysses in Nighttown,"
and in Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoc-
eros," in which he created an
awesome illusion of transforming

himself into a rhino on stage.
Mostel is survived by Kathryn
Markin Mostel, his wife of 43 years,
and two sons, Joshua, an actor, and
Tobias, a painter.
Funeral arrangements were in-
complete.
"The success didn't go to my
head," Mostel once quipped, "it
went to my waistline."
The road to fame and riches was a
rough one, and Mostel hit its first
pot-hole in the early 1950s when he
was seen attending a meeting of the
Civil Rights Congress.
Such affiliations then were more
than enough for the House Un-Amer-
ican Activities Committee and its
leader, Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Mostel suddenly found himself on
the infamous Hollywood black list as
a suspected Communist and his
career went into eclipse.
His name was removed from the
list in the late 1950s, and later Mostel
was to relive the experience, playing
the role of a washed-up Jewish
nightclub comedian who commits
suicide in despair over a McCarthy
blacklisting in the Woody Allen film
"The Front."

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