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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

At Home at the Zoo

Also see Susan's review of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

At Home at the Zoo
James McMenamin and Jeff Allin
Edward Albee burst to prominence in 1958 with his one-act play The Zoo Story, depicting an enigmatic encounter between two men in New York's Central Park. Forty-five years later, Albee wrote a prequel, Homelife, which scrutinizes the relationship between one of the Zoo Story characters and his wife. The combined work, now titled At Home at the Zoo is receiving an incisive production in the Kogod Cradle at Washington's Arena Stage, with finely calibrated direction by Mary B. Robinson and three intense performances.

The blended work examines the two sides of Peter (Jeff Allin), an editor with a textbook publishing house: his calm, traditional marriage to Ann (Colleen Delany) and the random invasion of his personal space by Jerry (James McMenamin). The issue is the conflict between civilized behavior and the kind of savagery associated with wild animals.

Peter is an archetypal New York liberal intellectual. He wants what's best for his wife and his (unseen) daughters; he enjoys his job, he makes good money, he has a comfortable home and the amenities he wants. He's gentle, solicitous, and goes out of his way to compromise and not to upset those around him. The problem at home is that Ann is tired of all that predictability; she wants a little less caution and more of a walk on the wild side, sexual and otherwise. On her side, the issue is: "Something bad can be good." On his: "It's not all right to love someone and not want to hurt them?"

So Peter escapes his home and goes to read on his favorite park bench, where the disheveled and progressively more threatening Jerry accosts him with the declaration "I've been to the zoo!" Jerry is the "other" who pushes easygoing Peter to the limit, but Albee leaves the audience to consider who or what he might be: a derelict, a man with emotional problems, or a social rebel?

Robinson, working with scenic designer James Noone, uses the intimate space of the Cradle to lay out the relationships as if on a microscope slide. Allin embodies the outwardly ineffectual, inwardly troubled Peter with the comfort of the character's corduroy jacket with suede elbow patches; Delany starts out a little mannered, but soon finds her way through her character's darker side; and McMenamin radiates danger and uncertainty from his entrance.

Arena Stage
At Home at the Zoo
February 25th April 24th
By Edward Albee
Peter: Jeff Allin
Ann: Colleen Delany
Jerry: James McMenamin
Directed by Mary B. Robinson
Kogod Cradle, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Sixth and Maine avenues SW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or www.arenastage.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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