*At Home At the Zoo,* 3/22/18
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.