ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
At Home at the Zoo
Theproduction's minimal set by James Noone features a balanced arrangement of chair and sofa in front of two windows in Act one. The second act's large green backdrop is similar to Neil Patel's set for Peter and Jerry.
According to the playwright, Homelife, the first act, is intended to clarify the character of The Zoo Story's Peter and correct information gaps. One gap this prequel might fill is to provide a reason why in Act Two Peter understands what Jerry is desperately talking about, and denies it.
Act One, however, does little to set up The Zoo Story, which luckily needs no frame. The first act's exploration is not a necessary condition for appreciating the older play, which does just fine on its own, thank you. Peter's demeanor in the park says everything that needs be said.
In the first act there are parallels with the movement vs stasis and careful pauses of the second act, and some of the original themes are touched on. Although the couple, Peter (T. Scott Cunningham) and Ann (Susan McKey), speak of their long relationship, sex and love, they hardly seem to know each other. Their roundabout conversation takes ages to add up, with language that's sometimes too precious; for example, , the repetition of lines like "I'mthinking about thinking about something." The piece feels like it's working too hard while The Zoo Story, organic and visceral, doesn't betray the effort that went into it.
Homelife, however, can stand as a domestic one-act without its referent. At times it is reminiscent of another recent Albee tragedy of manners, The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?, which also concerns a primal act,.
Compared to Homelife, The Zoo Story vibrates with life. Jerky, scratching, expressive Jerry (Andrew Polk), anxious to connect, goes to great pains to communicate with a stranger in Central Park. Peter, essentially static yet always reacting, refuses to admit that he may well "get" what is agitating Jerry. The two actors are phenomenal in their roles.
With one character basically silent and one who talks and talks, The Zoo Story achieves a balance. Both characters are known and unknown. This non-literal play doesn't require the support of a literal first act. But if a background must be supplied, I would prefer to see it bookended with a preface about Jerry, who talks a lot but leaves so many questions, and a sequel on Peter, who likely was changed by his encounter.
I respectfully disagree with Mr. Albee, who believes that his fine play needs clarification. The Zoo Story, greater than he thinks it is, stands on its own.
Curtainup reviewed Peter and Jerry at Second Stage Theatre. To read that review, go here