MITG&SP AT THE ZOO Due to the short rehearsal period, workshop status, and the location of the performance, I admit my expectations for the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players' production of THE ZOO were rather low. I was surprised to discover that this cast and crew not only overcame these obstacles, but they entertained me despite them.
THE ZOO, by Arthur Sullivan and Bolton Rowe, is a short, one-act play set in the London Zoological Gardens, in Victorian times. Directors Rebecca Haines and Stephanie Wang did a wonderful job of making this a "full-length" presentation by prefacing it with an abridged performance of TRIAL, set on a stage at the zoo. All of this is explained to us by a charming tour guide (Ishani Das) as she leads us across the wide expanse of Morss Hall past the snack bar, to the TRIAL stage, and back into the main plot of THE ZOO.
Morss Hall (used daily as an MIT dining room) has never been an ideal performance space. For such a difficult space, Mike Bromberg and Brian Trimmer did an admirable job of lighting the minimal but credible set, although it wasn't quite bright enough to convince me that I was outdoors. The room also tends to gobble up sound, yet I could clearly understand all of the dialog, although Eliza's (Victoria Davis) songs required close attention to comprehend them. [Our two cents - strange, but We had no trouble at all with Eliza's diction - although We did find Laetitia's lovely tones hard to distill into words - mlc] I usually don't care to attend performances that don't have at least a 4 instrument orchestra, however, I quickly forgot about that after the first few notes on the keyboard (played by Katherine Bryant) filled the room.
The short length of the show doesn't lend itself to much in the way of character development. In spite of this fact, the leads did a commendable job portraying the two pairs of lovers, Eliza and Tom Brown (Seth Bisen-Hersh), Laetitia (Ana Albir) and Aesculapius Carboy (David Euresti), and the melodramatic, villainous father, Grinder (Cemocan Yesil). Many of the chorus members had memorable character personalities, as well. ZOO is also a bit short on plot as well; money resolves all woes. There were none of the topsy-turvy plot twists to surprise us in Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, but then again, this is Sullivan without Gilbert.
I will close with an example of how much I enjoyed this production of ZOO (with a little TRIAL tossed in). I videotape many theatre productions. Returning home afterwards, I usually spot check the night's work to make sure everything recorded properly and I don't need to do it over. Rather than fast-forwarding to spot check the tape, I continued watching the entire show, for the second time that night.
-- RUTH JEDLINSKY