Fall Arts Guide 2010: At Home at the Zoo | Performing Arts Sidebar | Chicago Reader

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Fall Arts Guide 2010: At Home at the Zoo

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Edward Albee's first play, The Zoo Story, is an acknowledged classic and one of the most-produced works in American theater. Written in 1958, it's a pithy, intense, deceptively easy to mount one-act that college students and fledgling theater groups just love to cut their teeth on—though its dramatic and philosophical subtexts often elude even experienced artists. The quintessential two-men-on-a-park-bench drama, it depicts a confrontation between Jerry, a volatile young loner, and Peter, a middle-aged, buttoned-down book editor whose complacent, emotionally compartmentalized worldview is shattered by the experience. Originally rejected by New York producers, it premiered in West Berlin in 1959 before circling back to these shores the following year, when the off-Broadway Provincetown Playhouse paired it with Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape.

Six years ago, Albee expanded the work, adding a first act titled "Homelife," which takes place on the morning of Peter and Jerry's encounter and introduces Peter's wife, Ann. According to a 2004 New York Times interview, Albee was motivated to write the "prequel" because he felt Peter was "not as well drawn as he might have been." He added, "Whether people think I should have done it is another matter. Are they going to be unhappy that their adolescent dreams of what The Zoo Story was all about were incorrect? That I'm destroying their illusions? That's tough."

This fall At Home at the Zoo comes to Victory Gardens Theater, where Dennis Zacek—in his 34th and final season as the company's artistic director—will stage it with a first-rate trio of actors: Tom Amandes as Peter, Annabel Armour as Ann, and Marc Grapey as Jerry. Coincidentally, Albee will also be represented this season at Steppenwolf, where Tracy Letts and Amy Morton are tackling George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (12/2-2/6), and at Court Theatre, which is mounting his enigmatic Three Tall Women (1/13-2/13).  Previews 10/1-10/10. Opens Mon 10/11. Through 10/31: Tue-Sun, Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000, victorygardens.org, $20-$50. —Albert Williams

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