Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 24, 2017

Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo (Zoo Story)

Berkshire Theatre Group, Stockbridge, MA
through August 26, 2017
by Jarice Hanson

Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware
In Act II of Berkshire Theatre Group’s “At Home at the Zoo,” Jerry, the iconic monologist of “Zoo Story: says; “A person has to find a way of dealing with something. If not with people...something." In those two simple sentences you get the message of both acts of the current production on the Unicorn Stage, and actually, the challenges confronting all of Edward Albee’s characters. “At Home at the Zoo (with the original “Zoo Story” as Act II) combines both one of Albee’s most famous one-act plays written in 1958, with a prequel, staged as Act I, called “Homelife,” written in 2009. 

“Homelife” tells the story of Peter (David Adkins) and Ann (Tara Franklin), a married couple who live in New York on the upper East Side who have a stable, but uninspiring marriage. Peter decides to go to Central Park where he often reads on his favorite bench. He meets Jerry (Joey Collins) who epitomizes social angst and mental instability. Albee’s word choices and the juxtaposition of class, privilege, culture and incipient violence are fore-grounded against Randall Parson’s spare but effective set designs, and director Eric Hill has his actors subtly moving as pacing animals, ready to devour each other.

Act I, written fifty years after “Zoo Story,” gives Peter the impetus to go to the park, but we know him better after seeing his domestic life. We learn more about Peter’s own history of power and control, and it’s very easy to empathize with him. This makes Jerry’s presence even more menacing, and whether you know the ending to “Zoo Story” or not, the conclusion of the play still packs a wallop.

The cast and director work in perfect harmony in this production. The repartee in Act I is fast-paced and tight, and Adkins and Franklin are a believable couple. Collins skillfully drives the character of Jerry in Act II, as counterpoint to Adkins’ Peter. None of these roles are easy, but the talented trio of actors makes it look easy—and in so doing, give Albee’s complicated stories a contemporary relevance.