Theater in Chicago: Victory Gardens Theatre Presents the Chicago Premiere of Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo.

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Tom Amandes and Annabel Armour star in Victory Gardens Theater’s production of “At Home at the Zoo.”


Amandes and Armour in act-one of “At Home at the Zoo.”

At Home at the Zoo, making its Chicago premier at the Victory Gardens Theatre, was written by highly regarded playwright Edward Albee as an old man and as a young man.  How can this be, you ask? Back in 1958 when Albee was barely 30 years of age, he wrote his first successful  play, The Zoo Story–three years before his highly acclaimed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf took Broadway and then the rest of the world by storm. In 2004, Albee penned a prequel, Homelife to The Zoo Story–making it a two act-play, originally called, Peter and Jerry, but later changed to At Home at the Zoo because Albee though Peter and Jerry sounded too much like Ben and Jerry.

The Zoo Story
was the study of two characters, the tweedy, successful, publisher Peter and the aggressive, low-life Jerry.  The play was well received by original audiences, first in Germany, then in New York (1960). It went on to become one of the most studied and performed plays of the 20th century.  The Zoo Story was revolutionary for its time giving Albee instant status as an American Beckett for taking on class, sexuality, human isolation and human nature at a time when the majority of the population was still very conservative and innocent.

So why the prequel?  According to Albee, “The Zoo Story was a one-and-a-half-character play with Jerry fully developed and Peter just a backboard for Jerry’s ideas.”  The prequel, Homelife is intended to develop the character of Peter by filling in information gaps and exploring his character in greater depth.  

Homelife, now act-one of the At Home at the Zoo production at Victory Gardens features  Peter (Tom Amandes) and his wife Ann (Annabel Armour), at their fashionable East Side Manhattan flat in their very beige living room echoing their very beige lifestyle. The middle-aged Peter and his wife Ann look to have a successful, loving and traditional marriage.  They have two teenage daughters, two cats and two parakeets–one in each daughter’s room.  The action begins as Peter, a successful book publisher, is reading and Ann is wanting to talk. As the act continues, it becomes clear that genuine communication doesn’t come easily to them and that Ann is looking for something that Peter is emotionally unable to give.  There is a tug-of-war going between actual communication and small talk. Even when the couple finally get around to speaking about love and sex, it seems they hardly know each other.  Finally, Peter needs to take a break and heads to his favorite bench in Central Park where act-two takes place.


Tom Amandes and Marc Grapey take their benches in Central Park in act-two of “At Home at the Zoo.”

The staging for the second act is sparse–with two park benches commanding the floor.  Peter, once again, has his head buried in a book, as he is approached by Jerry (Marc Grapey), a transient outcast, who desperately is looking to communicate.  Finally drawn out of his book, Peter becomes increasingly agitated as he is clearly taken far from his comfort zone by Jerry’s edgy line of questioning.  The action escalates until the violent finale.

The Victory Garden cast under the direction of veteran Artistic Director Dennis Zacek puts on a first-class production.  All three actors are highly accomplished.  Tom Amandes is a Chicago-area native who alternates between theater and television.  He is most widely known for his role on Everwood and currently appears on NBC’s Ron Howard-produced Parenthood.  Chicago actors Annabel Armour and Marc Grapey have appeared on every major stage in the city.

Performance Schedule:
Regular performances run through October 31:  Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 4 pm and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.   There will be a matinee on Wednesday, October 20 at 2 pm.   There are no evening performances Tuesday, October 12 or Tuesday, October 19.   Regular performances are $20-$50.

Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. 

Tickets and Information:
Victory Gardens Box Office, (773) 871 3000. email, or visit  Ask the Box Office about student, senior, Access, 20 for $20, and rush discounts.  For group discounts, call (773) 549 5788.

Post Show Discussions:
Join members of the cast and VG Artistic Team in a post-play discussion every Wednesday evening throughout the run of the play.

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