Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 410
Forty-six years after The Zoo Story, Albee’s playwriting career appeared to have come full circle. His play Peter & Jerry, a prequel to The Zoo Story, opened on May 28, 2004, to celebrate the fortieth season of the Hartford Stage Company, a theater long associated with Albee’s work. Critical reaction to the new work was mixed, with most reviewers praising it but others decrying his attempt to rework and update a classic.
Actually, the full title of the work is Peter & Jerry. Act I: Homelife. Act II: The Zoo Story. Albee says he was quite happy with the original The Zoo Story but wanted to flesh out and offer more insight into the character of Peter. In Homelife, Peter is now seen in his Upper West Side home, where he lives with his wife, two daughters, cats, and a parakeet. He is absorbed in a book (by Stephen King this time) that he will later bring to the park. Ann, his wife, wishes to have a frank talk with him about their married life together and joins him.
Peter attempts to continue reading his book; however, Ann will have none of it. She says that she loves him but is unhappy with their present life despite the obvious creature comforts. Ann wants her husband to let go emotionally and allow his passionate animal instincts to emerge more fully. Peter attempts to explain and justify his behavior, but Ann is disgusted with his explanations. She is far more interested in dissecting what she perceives as a failed marriage. Their brutally frank exchange of dialogue is Albee at his best: sharp, revealing, sexually explicit, and absurdly funny. By act’s end, mild-mannered Peter’s character is fully revealed as a far more interesting individual as he proceeds to the park where Jerry will accost him.
With the creation of Homelife, The Zoo Story now no longer needs to be paired with other one-act plays to make a full evening of theater. While the newer work is less striking than its predecessor, the plays have a synergistic effect on each other, with the characters of both Peter and Jerry revealed in a fuller light. Albee always felt that the character of Peter was more of a sketch and revealed primarily through Jerry’s eyes. The prequel Homelife corrects that imbalance, gives Peter greater emotional depth, updates both plays to the present day, and makes the tragic ending dramatically more confrontational and gripping.
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