Originally titled Peter & Jerry, At Home at the Zoo combines Albee’s classic short play The Zoo Story (1959) with its prequel, Homelife (2004). Together these short plays form a complete story of Peter, a publishing executive; Ann, his wife; and Jerry, a stranger Peter meets in the park.
The play begins with Homelife, and offers a revealing look at Peter and Ann’s rocky marriage, their brutal attempts to communicate, and the loneliness within their shared life. The tension escalates in the next act, The Zoo Story. While reading on a Central Park bench, a stranger walks up to Peter and declares that he has “been to the zoo!” The man, Jerry, begins to tell tale after tale, probe deep into Peter’s life, and attempt to take the bench for himself.
In an introduction to At Home at the Zoo: Homelife and the Zoo Story Albee explains why he decided to change his one-act play into a two-act play:
How did The Zoo Story become a two-act play? It’s really very simple: it always had been; I just hadn’t told myself. When I wrote The Zoo Story in 1958 it was my first play, so to speak. Oh, I’d made a few attempts—including an embarrassing two-act play in rhymed couplets—but nothing pleased me. No, I must be fair—it was junk, all of it.
The Zoo Story seemed to be a much better piece—in fact, the first I felt had any individuality and merit. It would seem I was right. It has gone on to have—at this writing—49 years of frequent performances and general acceptance.
And … I though it was fine, though it nagged me just a bit that it seemed to be not quite a two-character play—Jerry being so much longer a role—but more a one-and-a-half-character one. But the play “worked,” so why worry?
Six years ago, however, I said to myself, “There’s a first act here somewhere which will flesh out Peter fully and make the subsequent balance better.”
Almost before I knew it, Homelife fell from my mind to the page … intact. There was the Peter I had always known—a full three-dimensional person and—wow!—here was Ann, his wife, whom I must have imagined deep down, forty-some years ago, but hadn’t brought to consciousness.
So … here it is—the entire play as I’m sure I must have conceived it all that time past. Enjoy
Albee, Edward. “How The Zoo Story Became a Two-Act Play”. At Home at the Zoo: Homelife and the Zoo Story. New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2011.
Type: Full Length Play
First Performance (as Peter & Jerry): 6 June 2004, Hartford Stage, Connecticut; 11 November 2007, Second Stage Theatre, New York
First Performance (as At Home at the Zoo): 20 March 2009, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Theatre Company
According to the publishing firm Samuel French, “The Zoo Story may be performed independently. However, Homelife may only be performed as part of the full length play At Home at the Zoo.”
“At Home at the Zoo (Zoo Story).” Samuel French. 2012. 1 May 2014 <http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/7482/at-home-at-the-zoo-zoo-story/>.
For more information on the second act, view our entry on Albee’s classic one-act play, The Zoo Story.
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