Author: Paul Fleischman
Page Length: 83
Reading Level: 5.5
REVIEW: This is a play that has been actually performed by several high school drama departments. Paul Fleischman wrote it when he realized many high schools get stuck in a rut performing the same plays over and over again. He wanted something new that would work for a high school stage and the result is Zap.
How shall I begin to explain the premise? Zap is seven plays in one sharing the same stage; Shakespeare’s Richard III and 6 original plays based on well known genres set in different time periods. There is a British Murder Mystery ala Agatha Christie, a Russian play similar to the style of Chekhov, a southern Tennessee Williams type play, a Neil Simon inspired comedy, an avant-garde Samuel Beckett style play and a performance art monologue.
The play has a single set. The actors wear period costumes. When switching from one play to another, a loud zap is heard which is supposedly from a remote control. The stage blacks out and when the lights quickly come back on there is a new scene. As the play goes on there are intentional goofs where actors from different scenes end up on stage together as if by accident. The “improvisation” that happens in these scenes made me laugh. The chaos continues to the point that the characters in the plays drop their roles at times and address each other as their “real” selves. I should also mention that at the beginning of the story the audience is told that if they do not like the scene they are watching they should hit the remote printed on their program and that those signals will be gathered and tallied and when a certain number is reached the scene will change. This is part of the joke of audience control that is referred to in the play.
It sounds confusing, and I thought it would be a nightmare to keep all the storylines straight, but it was not difficult. Readers do need some schema about these different genres of plays though to appreciate all of the humor. Fleischman makes mention of this as well. That to me is the real challenge of this book. It is not a sit in your seats and take a part to read aloud type of play. The visual here is very important. Zap is a quick, fun read that will need some advance preparation but should be well worth it.
REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall