Theater review Jeff DeBell urges everyone to go see Gamut Theatre’s “At Home at the Zoo.” Have you seen it? If so what did you think?
‘Home at the Zoo’ definitely one to see
By Jeff DeBell
Roanoke’s Gamut theater company, which prides itself on doing modern plays that challenge both audience and actors, uncharacteristically veered into softer territory with its February presentation of A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters.” The play was competently done, but Gamut’s fans responded by mostly staying away.
They should welcome the news, then, that the company has returned to form with Edward Albee’s talky but powerful “At Home at the Zoo.” It’s a terrific production.
The play is a descendant of “The Zoo Story,” which introduced the young Albee as a major American playwriting talent in the late 1960s. About five years ago, apparently having decided that his one-act play would benefit from additional context, the author added a prequel called “Homelife.” “The Zoo Story” thus became the second part of a two-acter called “At Home at the Zoo.”
It opens with Peter and Ann, upper-middle-class New Yorkers, at home in their comfortable apartment. Peter, a textbook editor, is immersed in his work when Ann walks into the room and utters the words that every man trembles to hear: “We should talk.”
There follows an exchange from which it becomes evident that Peter and Ann love each other but don’t communicate well; that Peter is generally content with the “pleasant journey” of their life, whereas Ann senses a need for an occasional bit of “disorder,” “chaos,” “madness”; that Ann wishes Peter to be naughtier in bed, while Peter frets that his circumcised foreskin is somehow regenerating itself.
Following the couple’s revelatory and mostly civil chat, Peter picks up his pipe and a book and heads off to Central Park for a bit of solitude. There he meets a voluble and vaguely menacing transient named Jerry.
This is “The Zoo Story” part of the play. It is mesmerizing to look on as the men’s encounter gradually escalates from friendly curiosity to startling violence.