Antony, Cleopatra And The Polar Bear

One of the nice things about the Saint Louis Zoo — besides it being free — was the polar bear exhibit.

While all the other bears were usually sleeping in their caves — not unlike all the other animals at the zoo — the polar bears were usually romping, swimming, playing with a giant ball. They were the stars of the zoo.

Then they died.

So the zoo has spent the past several months building a whole new polar bear habitat. Its one resident moved in recently. The exhibit opened this weekend.

A&C poster jpegFriday there was a sneak preview event for Zoo Friends. The Wife and Son were both off yesterday so Laurie decided they would go down to see the polar bear. The annual St. Louis Shakespeare Festival was also going on next door in Forest Park, so in true kill-two-birds-with-one-stone fashion, we decided that I would meet them after work at the park.

I picked up some chicken strips and fries and met wife and child around 5 p.m. in Shakespeare Glen. Laurie had us camped out in a pretty sweet spot. Not too many people line up for free Shakespeare at 5 p.m. when the show starts at 8 p.m.

“Oh, Ronnie. It was horrible. You would’ve hated it. When we got here at 1 there was nowhere to park. Both zoo lots were full. I wound up parking by the basin. The line to see the polar bear was sooo long.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said out loud while happy feelings ran up and down my insides at the thought that I didn’t have to go through that.

By 5:30 we were finished eating and still had 2.5 hours to sit. So I decided to walk over to the zoo and check out the bear. After all, it probably won’t be crowded now and God knows I’m never coming back to the zoo to see him during daytime visiting hours. At least not for two years or so until the excitement wears off.

I walked over and sure enough, there was no line. But then I had to go through the Penguin and Puffin building to get to the polar bear.

What? Why? Bad move, Zoo. Making people have to walk through the stinking arctic bird house to get to the polar bear. We never go to any of the inside animal buildings at the zoo because, frankly, they stink. I held my breath and quickly moved past the penguins and puffins to the exit. Wait. What? Where’s the bear?

Turns out the bear is in his own enclosure outside the penguin/puffin house. Why they made me walk through it, I do not know.

When you first encounter the bear enclosure there’s a large glass window through which you can see the bear frolicking in the water. If the bear were frolicking in the water, which he wasn’t. Then you go around to another large area with a large window where you can watch the bear frolicking. If the bear were frolicking there, which he wasn’t. Right. Now I remember why I find the zoo so frustrating.

Andrew at the zoo.  More charming than a sleeping polar bear.

Andrew at the zoo.
More charming than a sleeping polar bear.

After walking around a very large, very nice, very impressive enclosure I finally encountered a mob of people standing around a large window in the far corner. Ah, this must be where the bear is. I push my way through the crowd to discover that, you guessed it, the bear was sleeping. Nice. At least he was sleeping in the open next to the glass, as opposed to up in the caves like the grizzlies would’ve done.

To be fair to the bear, it was after 6 p.m. and he’d probably been up all day entertaining the crowd, so he was probably pooped.

So, kudos to the Saint Louis Zoo. Another impressive new habitat. Now just get some more polar bears. It’s really too much for one animal. If I were one of the other zoo residents I’d be pretty pissed.

Made it back in plenty of time for this year’s production of “Antony and
Cleopatra.” It was a good production. Not too hard to follow for Shakespeare. They kiss, they fight, they kiss, they fight, they kiss, he threatens to kill her, she fakes her death, he tries to kill himself, he fails but then dies anyway, she kills herself. The Bard at his not-quite best. It seemed like a shorter show, which is always good.

The set design was — I believe the term is minimalist. Five large monoliths on an uneven stage. Still, it worked for me. The costumes were nice; it’s always good to see people walking around in capes and not looking ridiculous. The actors were very good.

The Wife really enjoyed it and that’s the only reason I go through all this every year anyway. The Son remained quiet for the most part which is always a major accomplishment.

I’m always amused when we get close to the dramatic finale and you can hear music playing from off in the distance. Nothing sucks the venom out of a death scene like watching Cleopatra dying to the sound of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” blaring in the background.

Antony and Cleopatra plays nightly (except Tuesdays) through June 14 in Forest Park. Kali the Polar Bear will be frolicking and sleeping at the Saint Louis Zoo probably until he dies.


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