Of all the Hamptons’ live performance venues, the one that continues to evolve in terms of its scope is The Clubhouse in East Hampton. After its push to become a venue where an audience could see musical acts by the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and comedy sets by comedians such as Amy Schumer, The Clubhouse is now adding another entertainment genre to its growing repertoire: live theater. The first of these theatrical productions will be esteemed playwright Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, performed by Edward W. Kassar and Joe Pallister, April 13–15.
The upcoming production of The Zoo Story, presented by Nimbus Productions in association with Our Fabulous Variety Show (OFVS), creative consultant Stephen Hamilton and director H.H. Bets, began as a staged reading in December 2022. It served as the debut of the OFVS Staged Series and as an opportunity for Kassar and Pallister to familiarize themselves with the lauded script — or re-familiarize in Kassar’s case.
“The truth is: We trust each other … If Joe sees something in a play that is worthwhile to explore, I’m all in,” Kassar says. “And The Zoo Story is something that I’ve performed in Manhattan many years ago —maybe before your birth, David — and I always wanted to revisit it. … The opportunity to do it with Joe really excites me.”
He continues, “Keeping it minimal with a two-character piece and a set that is really minimalistic helps to ease us into our first production (at The Clubhouse). … It’s a beautiful stage. And those walls are movable so we can create more of an intimate space than it appears when someone just walks in to see the venue.”
Kassar adds that despite having performed The Zoo Story once before, he finds the piece “challenging” in a way that’s both terrifying and exhilarating.
As for Pallister, who began his acting career in the early ’90s, this may be his first time portraying one of Edward Albee’s complex characters, but he has hands-on experience with the playwright himself.
“One of the very first auditions I went on was for Albee himself — for the GOAT,” he says. “I wasn’t even that nervous because I had never done anything like that before, so I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll go in and read for him. I don’t care.’ I didn’t get it, and he wasn’t very nice. He seemed a little surly, but it was a good experience.”
Kassar and Pallister’s careers span both screen and stage, and they’ve celebrated several successful productions together, including Yasmine Reza’s Art and Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain with Guild Hall, Jerry Sterner’s Other People’s Money with the Hampton Theatre Company and Tom Salamon’s immersive theater experience The Grift with Bay Street Theater. With this weekend’s production at The Clubhouse, Kassar and Pallister will have performed at nearly every major performing arts venues in the Hamptons.
In Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, a one-act play marking his playwriting debut in 1958, wealthy publishing executive Peter (to be portrayed by Pallister) and Jerry (to be Kassar’s second portrayal of the character), a poor beaten-down soul desperate for a moment of human connection, have a fateful encounter on a bench in Central Park.
Jerry wants to regale Peter with the story of his recent visit to the zoo, while Peter wishes to be left alone, and throughout the scene the two argue over possession of the bench. The staging and setup of the play are left simple so as to not distract from the frighteningly edgy, emotion-packed and darkly humorous dialogue.
“There’s always a thing (like a child or a murder) that the story hangs on, but this doesn’t really have that. So when we did the reading, the talkback was really interesting because everybody had a different perspective on what it meant to them and what they got from it. It’s good writing,” Pallister says.
“It’s really interesting that it’s about two people talking in New York City. You don’t talk to anybody in New York City. Some stranger comes up and starts to chat you up, and it’s like, ‘What do you want? Get away from me,’” he continues. “There are class differences, different education levels, different backgrounds and family lives. It just really highlights how alone each person is. And we’re in our own little zoo — our own cages.”
“We hope that people can find something in it that they can relate to, that makes them sort of question their lives, not necessarily negatively, but just reflect and see something in the characters that they can relate to. And I believe that they can,” Kassar adds.
Tickets to The Zoo Story are on sale for three nights — Thursday, April 13 through Saturday, April 15 at 7 p.m. — on thezoostory.brownpapertickets.com and at the door of The Clubhouse, located at 174 Daniels Hole Road, East Hampton.