Albee blends Act 1 “Homelife” and Act 2″ The Zoo Story” for his play, “At Home At The Zoo. ” We first meet Peter,(Robert Sean Leonard”, he played a doctor on “House ” for eight seasons, and his wife Ann, (Katie Finneran), who are comfortable living on East 74th St in New York City. They have two daughters, two cats and two parquets. The interaction between them is loving although Peter has a difficult times expressing his thoughts or even talking about something that should not be spoken of especially there sexual relationship. The conversation goes on for about an hour, talking about everything from Peter’s work, to college, there girls, her thinking about a breast removal, there sex life and why they live in the status quo, never taking risks. Ann tells Peter that you love being on that ship where the boat never rocks and it is smooth sailing all the time. It can be slow at times during the first act, however, it does have several funny moments and for the most part it moves along as two loving people flowing between seriousness and light comedy. Towards the end of the first act we discover why Peter likes the status quo, it goes back to his college days and what happened to a girl that he slept with one evening.
The second act gets more serious, and weird. Peter decides to go to Central park to drench in sun on this Sunday afternoon. We see the same set as the first act, which works better in this act then the previous one. Peter meets Jerry,(Paul Sparks), a bit of a demented man, bit deep thinker, but a constant story teller. Peter does not know how to take him as he goes from talking about his family, to where he lives, at times insulting Peter. He asks Peter personal questions about where does he live, how much does he make and does he mind not having a boy. The two banter back and forth leaving the audience laughing at times, anxious at times and not wanting to look away because we want to see what comes next. Sparks takes this role and transcends what this person should be, he brings forth well a distorted individual. Leonard is very daft in his interaction with a man whom he does not know how to take. He brings forth the quality of not understanding him at times and also knows how to verbally beat back Jerry when he crosses the line with his statements and questions.
All three actors are believable and very efficient in the way they deliver this play. Director Lila Neugebauer has all three characters interacting that keeps the audience consistently wondering, what’s next. She takes Edward Albee’s work and puts forth what Albee is all about, the tension in “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?”; the comedy of “Me, Myself and I” and the anxiety of “The Goat”. Albee always keeps his audience on his toes, he shifts gears when we get a little to comfortable with the plot.
The lighting keeps the play in focus, the bright lights in the first act signify the happy home, the satisfaction that Peter enjoys playing the role of dad, father and provider. The second act we find the lights on a sun drenched day to be invigorating for Peter on his usual bench doing what he loves to do, read. The lights dim off as the play takes a serious turn during the fight scene, where Peter finds himself being an animal, not a vegetable.
The costumes have Peter dressed as a well read former prep school executive, his wife in a somewhat granola long white dress, that signifies purity, free spiritness and a women of the times. Jerry, in his tee shirt, unshaven face and blue jeans looks the part of a street guy, who makes his living on the street, who can get in the gutter with the worst of them.
All three actors make this play work, even with a very weak first act set, the two carry on for an hour back and forth and have the audiences attention. Act 2, we are taken on a roller coaster of emotions both funny and serious, Albee’s signature.