Edward Albee's The Zoo Story was written in 1958 and completed in just three weeks. Originally it was rejected by New York producers, and so it was first put on in Europe, premiering in Berlin at the Schiller Theater Werkstatt on September 28, 1959. The Provincetown Playhouse put it on in 1960 when it was paired with Samuel Beckett's work Krapp's Last Tape.
The play involves a business man who engages in a long and potentially shocking conversation with a stranger.
Themes are: · Isolation of human existence. · The potential connection with people or animals · Lack of communication between individuals. · Dehumanization in a commercial world. · Social disparity. · Life without purpose or examination. · Loneliness.
Characters: Peter: A plain-looking man in his early 40s who smokes a pipe and carries horn-rimmed glasses. His dress and manner are that of a younger man. Jerry: A man in his late 30s, carelessly dressed, once muscular and handsome. He is weary.
Setting: A park bench in Central Park, New York City, in the present time on a sunny day.
Synopsis: Peter, a middle-class publishing executive who lives in ignorance of the world outside his married life, sits on a park bench, reading. Along comes Jerry, an isolated, disheartened man who is very troubled and probably mentally ill. Jerry is desperate to have a meaningful conversation with another human being. He intrudes on Peter’s peaceful state by interrogating him and forcing him to listen to his life story and the reason behind his visit to the zoo. The action is linear, unfolding in front of the audience in “real time”. The elements of ironic humour and unrelenting dramatic suspense are brought to a climax when Jerry brings his victim down to his own savage level and initiates a shocking ending.