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Roberto Zucco

Reviewed by Victor Gluck

Presented by the Empire Theatre Company at the Currican Theatre, 154 W. 29 St., NYC, Oct. 21-Nov. 18.

For all its sound and fury, French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltes' "Roberto Zucco," being given its New York premiere by the Empire Theatre Company in the Martin Crimp translation, signifies very little. The title character, a serial killer, is depicted as a victim. However, as he goes on committing atrocity after atrocity, it is difficult to see him as anything other than a psychopath. In the title role, Peter Bisgaier is truly frightening in his intensity.

Daniel Safer's production, which uses multiple playing areas covering the entire stage, is extremely forceful, although, at times, the unrelenting grimness of the milieu, and the repetitious speeches by these denizens of the lower depths make this material very difficult to endure.

In addition, the original musical score composed and performed by Douglas Wagner often drowns out the actors. Ruth Pongstaphone's settings are atmospheric, but stylized to the point of being mysterious. The dim lighting by Jay Ryan creates a mood of decay and corruption, but obscures some of the settings partially hidden by others.

Safer has directed the acting ensemble in the Brechtian style of Peter Brook's production of "Marat/Sade": all of the actors are on stage almost all of the time, changing costumes in full view of the audience, and becoming onlookers when not part of a scene. The intense pitch and shocking nature of the material give the audience a thorough workout, and the actors look exhausted at the end of this 100-minute drama, performed without intermission.

Among the outstanding performances of despicable or victimized characters are Jessma Evans as Zucco's girlfriend, Wendy Allegaert as the girl's sister, Emmitt C. George and Kevin Mambo as police officers, Cecil MacKinnon as both Zucco's abusive mother and a rich lady in the park, and Fred Tietz as the girl's father.

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