Edward Albee wrote The Zoo Story when he was thirty and in a gloomy mood over his own lack of achievement. Rejected by New York producers for being too short and experimental, the play was eventually staged in Berlin before its American premiere at the Provincetown Playhouse, New York City, in 1960. Although there is some of Albee’s own personal history in the play, with its orphaned central character and his deep unhappiness, rootlessness, and sense of failure, The Zoo Story is more important as a formal breakthrough in American playwriting. The plays of Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Jean Genet had already given Europe its avant-garde Absurdist theater, but America had not yet shown any serious inclination to explore modern existential crises. Albee’s one-act play rocked critics and audiences with its social criticism in a form that defied conventions of well-balanced exchanges of dialogue and neat resolutions of problems. The Village Voice awarded The Zoo Story an Obie Award, and Albee’s appearance on the scene was consolidated by subsequent successes with The Sandbox (pr., pb. 1960), The Death of Bessie Smith (pr., pb. 1960), and The American Dream (pr., pb. 1961)—all highly original one-act plays and all taking up his favorite themes of death, racism, indignation, illusion, sex, power, social climbing, and myths of success. At this time, other American...
(The entire section is 342 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Zoo Story Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!