I saw Edward Albee’s *At Home At the Zoo* at the Signature Theatre on 3/22/18.  It’s actually two plays by Edward Albee: he wrote *The Zoo Story* in 1959, a short play that really put him on the map.  Then in 2004 he got at commission from the Hartford Stage to write a companion piece, and he wrote *Homelife.*  The fascinating thing, for me, is that the new play precedes the old play.  The old play is a continuation of the new play, the motifs of the old play are worked into the new play.  I suspect there are structural echoes.  I’m sure someone has written a Master’s thesis on this subject (or should).

 

*Homelife* has two characters, a middle-aged married couple.  They speak past each other in that ripe way that Albee and Pinter do so well.  They eventually have a (for them) frank discussion about sex, and it’s exciting and awkward.  The play was intellectually stimulating, surprising, beautifully constructed.  The play started with the man reading a book and ended with him deciding to go to the Park to read the book.

 

*The Zoo Story* has two characters, the man from *Homelife* and another man, a seemingly homeless man.  He’s a bit of a loose cannon, he goads the other man and makes him uncomfortable, but being a well-mannered, well-educated Liberal, he stays with it and doesn’t walk away.

 

The overtly dramatic ending of *The Zoo Story* was a surprise, with the rest of the play being so abstract.  It had me wondering if the whole thing was a grand allegory: rich vs. poor?  Old Word vs. New World?  Upper East Side vs. Upper West Side?

 

The three actors were all excellent.  Katie Finneran was the wife in *Homelife,* she had a wonderful ease and crackling energy.  Paul Sparks was the instigator in *The Zoo Story.*  He was wacky, defiant, arch, and touching, and many other things.  He really gave a PERFORMANCE, which is what you want opposite the necessarily bland other character.

 

Robert Sean Leonard was the central character in both plays.  I don’t think I’d ever seen him onstage before, and it seems like a turning point in my life as a New Yorker, that I’m not really sure if that’s the case.  He was incredible.  It takes skill and a quiet charisma to draw us in, playing such a blank person.  His was the most difficult role of the three, and I can’t imagine anyone playing it better.

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