Monday June 26th 2017

“At Home At The Zoo”

Most theater buffs are very familiar with the one act classic “The Zoo Story” written by Edward Albee, that launched his career some fifty years ago. In the past, this one act , the story of two men meeting in the park on a Sunday afternoon allows Jerry, a sort of lower class loner to tell his wild story of why he went to the zoo that day ,to Peter, a stranger ,who just happens to be sitting in the park reading a book. This story is full of the rantings and ravings of Jerry ,the story teller ( played brilliantly by  Marc Grapey) as he talks about his empty life and where he lives and his encounters with his landlady and her dog and just why he has visited the zoo. Peter ( Tom Amandes), in this play is pretty much a pawn; someone for Jerry to bounce his rantings off on until the end, when he becomes more than a pawn, he becomes more animal than man ,as he has had enough of Jerry. What takes place to end this second part of  a two one act play production at Victory Gadens  Theater is something you need to experience for yourself.

In the past, “Zoo” was partnered with other one act plays, but in 2004, Albee wrote another one act play entitled “Homelife” which was Peter’s story on that same afternoon, before he went to the park and ended up meeting Jerry. In this tale, now called “At Home” leading into the two play title “At Home At The Zoo”, we meet Peter in his upper class Manhattan home sitting in his living room reading a book that his publishing company is producing. His wife,  Ann ( a delightful performance by Annabel Armour) enters the room to tell him that the “have to talk”. So tied up in his book, he doesn’t hear her  is he, that she feels neglected and over a short period of small discussion they find themselves sitting on the sofa talking about their lives, past and present. We see the “perfect couple” with two kids, two cats, two birds, in a comfortable home with what appears to be the “American Dream” life.

Albee, of course doesn’t allow for perfection in one’s life. His characters must have secrets, old truths, yet to be shared, and all of a very personal nature. While we see that Peter and Ann love each other, and have for many years, we also see that their lives are in fact very bland and they are “used to each other”. There is no fire, no lust! Ann wants theirsex life to be more natural and desires that Peter become more of an animal when they make love. The revealing stories of Peter’s life begin to bother him and so he takes leave of his comfortable home to take refuge in the park, not knowing what will await him- Jerry! It is here that we watch Amandes truly make this character change before our very eyes.

Directed by Dennis Zacek, who truly understands Albee, this is a glorious evening of entertainment. There are many who attended the opening night who felt that they only needed to do “The Zoo Story” and call it a night, but I would guess that over the forty plus years, Peter was stuck in Albee’s head trying to get out. Albee, I am sure, felt the need to explain why Peter does what he does to end the play, become more animalistic. By getting more into who Peter is and what his life is, explaining just why he is in the park and why he does what he does makes “The Zoo Story” portion of this production much more plausible and realistic. The set ( Mary Griswold) is simple: Act One, a very plain living room, with a sofa and chair and a coffee table;  Act Two- two park benches with a bit of a scrim depicting trees in the park. The focus on these plays are the words of Albee, the actors bringing them to life under the skillful direction of a master. The other items are just what is needed to complete the picture and while there, they are simply unimportant. But to be sure, the sound by Andre Pluess, Lighting by Rita Pietraszek and costumes by Judith Lundberg were all well done, but with an Albee play, no one recalls anything but the story and the characters, these three New Yorkers who face many changes and revelations on a Sunday afternoon.

“At Home At The Zoo” will continue at The Victory Gardens Theater located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue through October 31st ( perhaps they will extend a week) with performances as follows:

Tuesdays ( except October 19th) at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on October 20th

Thursdays 7:30 p.m.

Fridays 7:30 p.m.

Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range in price from $20-$50 and are available at the box office, by phone at  773-871-3000, by e-mail at tickets@victorygardens.org or you can visit www.victorygardens.org

There are “rush” tickets available on day of show ( subject to availability) and  Student and senior discounts.

I suggest, due to language and content, not bringing anyone under the age of 16

Victory Gardens is easy to reach by public transportation and discounted parking is available at Children’s memorial Hospital, just 1/2 block South on Lincoln Avenue. There is also valet parking at the door for $11.

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