Friday, September 26, 2008

Play of the Week: The Zoo Story

"It's that when you're a kid you use the cards as a substitute."
The Zoo Story

Edward Albee's ruthless play has confounded audiences from day one. The play was rejected by all New York producers - it had to find success in Germany before it could find its way back to the United States. Throughout there have been as many interpretations as there have been productions and college professors. Allow me to suggest one more.

I'm entering on to shaky ground here, but bear with me.

First, consider the characters names. Peter is a reference to St. Peter the apostle and first Pope. Jerry, beginning with the letter "J" is in reference to Jesus Christ. Now if we can get beyond all the religious ideas surrounding these figures and think how their stories run parallel to The Zoo Story we can proceed to part two.

Peter is your typical American citizen. He has a good job that allows him all the modern comforts for both him an his family. There is very little that is uncertain in his life. Enter Jerry. Jerry is described by Albee as "a permanent transient" who lives in New York. Jerry assumes the burdens of all of the inhabitants of his rooming house - and metaphorically for the world. He shoulders the things that Peter doesn't want to face to that he can live his quite, stable life.

On this particular day, Jerry will attempt to get Peter to open his eyes and see the suffering that lies around him. He wants him to leave his routine and his park bench and venture forth into the world. Jerry will do anything to push Peter from his comfort zone. Anything.

Read the play again. Think about this interpretation. Share you interpretation with us here in the blog posts.

For further consideration: Edward Albee has written a preceding act for The Zoo Story. This new act is a scene between Peter and his wife and the two acts together are called At Home At the Zoo. Many artists are upset by the change in the play 50 years later. Albee feels that it is his play and he can do with it what he wants.

And reflection: I once had an acting teacher who suggested that Jerry grabs Peter's arm and the knife and essentially commit seppaku at the end of the play. I personally agree with the interpretation but it is an interesting choice. However, read the stage directions and make your own choice. How would you defend the acting teacher's suggestion to Edward Albee? How does the text support this choice?

Happy Birthday: T.S. Elliot (1888-1965) & Georgre Gershwin (1898-1937)

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