Drama in two acts by George F. Walker, premiered at Toronto Free Theatre, November 2, 1977, directed by Bill Lane with set by Doug Robinson, lighting by Gerry Brown, featuring Stephen Markle, George Buza, Geoffrey Bowes, David Bolt, Diane D'Aquila and Valerie Warburton. It was subsequently performed at the Public Theatre, New York (1982), directed by Andrei Serban. It has received over 100 productions in the English-speaking world since then. In 2009 it played at the Stratford Fesival in the Studio Theatre (dir. Jennifer Tarver to critical acclaim.
The play is an odd hybrid of melodrama, revenge tragedy and grand opera with bodies littering the stage at the end and an absurdist tone throughout.
Zastrozzi is the "master of discipline," who believes that "life is a series of totally arbitrary and often meaningless events," and who becomes the agent of chaos in avenging the violation of his mother. The man who did it is a lunatic with religious visions. Between the two are two women - one pure, one not so pure, and two servants - one highly moral, the other devious.
The dialogue is often sharp and witty, and the action is highly dramatic in the old-fashioned sense: seductions, swashbuckling, murders and mayhem. The straight-through discussions of good and evil are simple but fascinating. The juxtaposition of characters brings into question easy moral assumptions. There are some set pieces, including a motionless seduction, that are effective in performance.
The critical reaction to the first production was mixed: "As swift and clean as a rapier in the guts - and just about as lethal" (The Globe and Mail); "...though there are lots of funny lines...director Lane hasn't been able to integrate them properly" (The Montreal Star). Frank Rich of the New York Times was not kind to the play at its Public Theatre production: "This trying 90-minute fable is a precious repackaging of other writers' thoughts..."
Readings: George F. Walker. Zastrozzi, The Master of Discipline. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1991.
Commentary by Gaetan Charlebois.
Last updated 2016-09-15