Back to Old-School Absurd: 'At Home at the Zoo'

Edward Albee’s masterpiece, “The Zoo Story,” made its Chile debut at Teatro Universidad Católica with a whole new update: the prequel “At Home.” Director Javier Chávez brought to life Albee’s final version of the deep story which once explored the thin boundaries between civility and primitiveness in the psyches of three New Yorkers.

Santiago Chile
Director Javier Chávez with cast members. Photo courtesy En casa en el zoológico

Albee’s original story focused on the relationship between Peter, a mild-mannered young adult with an outstanding career, and Jerry, a strange young vagrant, as they both meet at Central Park. As time goes by, Jerry forcibly tries to gain the other’s confidence. But as Peter’s rejection becomes more evident, the vagrant’s behavior begins to become violent, and goes from civilized antagonism to a primitive fight once he tries to take Peter’s seat in the park.

But Albee’s journey toward the savage essence of man adds another chapter in Peter’s life. In “At Home,” written in 2004, the author sketches the relationship between Peter and his wife, Ann. Here, it’s revealed how Peter’s chivalry and good-manners have already become compromised as Ann insists on calling for her husband’s most primitive and wildest sexual behavior. Peter seems to be unable to comply due to a strange sexual condition.

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy En casa en el zoológico

Albee stated in “The Zoo Story” that no matter how civilized a man was in modern consumer society, there was always a core of the most basic instincts ready to sprout once the limits of civilization have been violated. In “At Home,” he uses the same underlying argument in order to prove how, in a world filled with the anxiety of order and control, the prevailing animal instincts of both men and women will always seek a bit of chaos and conflict in their relationships.

Though a bit stressful (one felt a bit tired after leaving the room), “At Home at the Zoo” was intense and filled with varied dramatic and comical situations (Peter’s telling of his first anal-sex encounter was a one of a kind moment). It was one of most important representations of the old-school absurd -- next to Becket and Ionesco -- and therefore a must-see performance.

At Home at the Zoo (En Casa en el Zoológico)
Directed by: Javier Chávez
Cast: Roxana Naranjo, José Ignacio García and Carlos Morales
Teatro Universidad Católica
Jorge Washington 26
Plaza Ñuñoa, Santiago, Chile

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