COLUMBIA — David Crespy has long been a champion of Edward Albee’s work.
The MU theater professor has been a friend of the playwright since 1993. Crespy, also a director, said he thinks now is the opportune time to be showing Albee's work to audiences.
What: Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story" and "The American Dream"
When: 8 p.m. through Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Corner Playhouse, Fine Arts Annex, MU
“The Zoo Story” and “The American Dream” opened Wednesday at the Corner Playhouse; both productions run through Sunday.
“It’s a time frame that’s very similar to the current time frame. We were leaving the Eisenhower years and entering the Kennedy years."
After the Bush years, we've entered the Obama years, Crespy said, "so there is a change in the air. ... It’s very, very similar to what people were going through in the '60s.”
“The Zoo Story” (1958) is simple in premise, but its emotional weight packs a punch. Centered around the conversation of two men on a bench in Central Park, the play takes an uncomfortable encounter and turns it into a violent re-awakening.
Actor Steven Robertson is performing the role of Jerry, the driving force in “The Zoo Story.”
“I just love reading it, even if I didn’t perform it," he said. "I could just read it and see what great literature it is."
In “The American Dream,” which debuted two years after “The Zoo Story,” Robertson acts as the character Young Man. Like many absurdist writers, Albee creates ridiculous yet accessible dialogue.
"If anything, I hope that (audience members) enjoy the lines that we say and just the artistry of Albee,” Robertson said. “A lot of people say he’s the greatest living playwright right now. … More people at Mizzou need to know about him and his works.”
“The American Dream” takes place in what appears to be an average living room during the early '60s. When designing the set and costumes, Crespy took note from "Mad Men," looking for a “crisp” feel for the Corner Playhouse stage.
“Everything on the surface seems perfect, and yet underneath, it’s filled with these crushing desires,” he said.
Both plays question self-righteous morals and hypocrisy. Writing in the aftermath of World War II, Albee examines the pretense that can prevent Americans from understanding their true selves.
Much of the content and themes are just as meaningful today, Crespy said.
“I like to tell people that experiencing an Albee play is like having an delicious ice cold glass of strychnine, a nice chilled martini of poison, because it’s like that," he said. "It’s exhilarating, and at the same time you’re being given a bitter glass to sip.”