Monday, September 5, 2016

Zuccotti Park


Zuccotti Park opens with a man drumming on a plastic bin. This is a musical set in the turbulent milieu of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park in New York City. The relationship at its core concerns Cooper and Kate, both from Rockwell City, Iowa. They haven’t seen each other since high school. She has a Master’s degree from NYU now and works with the Occupy protestors. He served in Afghanistan for eight years and is unsympathetic with the movement. They’ve agreed to meet again in New York.

The story is about Cooper’s movement toward sympathy with the demonstrators. When a protestor sings “I see storm clouds over America,” Cooper responds “The storm of terrorism!” His conversion is gradual. “What if those Occupy folks are right?” he says as his conservatism wavers. His conversion is furthered at a job interview, when he’s told that the position has been filled and he should apply for a maintenance position. As a veteran, he responds, “I should be able to do a lot better than a janitor.” The role is ably played, with nuance, by Ryan Neal Green.

Towards the play’s closing we’re presented with the eviction of the protestors from the park. The event crystallizes Cooper’s thinking. In the next scene, Cooper tells a young boy “No one’s read the directions.” He then reads from a copy of the Declaration of Independence that Kate has given him.

The character of Kate is never adequately developed. A sketchy character, she never changes in the play. We never come to care about her or her relationship with Cooper. And some details of their story are unclear. Chelsea Rose Amoroso does the best she can as Kate, but she’s given little to work with.

Aside from Cooper and Kate, we meet characters in passing, and the settings change. One couple meets with their bankers to take out a mortgage. A man out of work finds that his wife is leaving him. A wealthy man teaches his daughter about the economic system in a clever song referencing fractional reserve banking and The Federal Reserve Act. But these scenes are never developed into subplots; they’re merely snapshots.

The songs are suitably varied, but the dialogue is merely adequate. The book and lyrics were written by Catherine Hurd. The music and additional lyrics were written by Vatrena King.

It’s all very clearly and precisely directed and choreographed by Luis Salgado. Chaotic crowd scenes in plays like this one are often directed – blocked – carelessly. But Mr. Salgado is meticulous, creating a series of clean, expressive stage pictures. He creates a great tension when the police approach the demonstrators to clear the park. What’s more, he’s had the inspired idea of mixing the cast with the audience before each act, pulling us into the scene.

Zuccotti Park calls itself “a musical about the human side of economics.” It is indeed an interesting concept, but the script disappoints. Fortunately, the show is very well executed. It’s presented by Salgado Productions as part of The New York International Fringe Festival.

Steve Capra
August 2016