The show runs Fridays and Saturdays, now through Oct. 10, on the Santa Paula’s Main Stage, 125 S. Seventh St.
Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that “There are no second acts to American lives,” but Albee seems determined to get around this by no means iron-clad premise. His first published play, written in 1958, was a two-character one-act called The Zoo Story. If you have seen it or read it, you know that a second act would be highly improbable. Indeed, as far as American producers were concerned, at first, one act was one too many, and The Zoo Story was first staged in what was then known as West Berlin, on Sept. 28, 1959 (almost exactly 51 years ago). It had its American debut the following year, in Greenwich Village’s Provincetown Playhouse, a theater (and theater company) founded in 1918 by Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Djuna Barnes. Albee’s maiden voyage on the American stage was made in exalted company: Provincetown paired The Zoo Story with Samuel Beckett’s one-act, Krapp’s Last Tape (“Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for 30 years ago, hard to believe I was ever as bad as that.”).
That was Albee’s “first act,” both literally and in the Fitzgerald sense, since The Zoo Story made the young playwright very famous. Although he has had a long and enviably distinguished run as a playwright, Albee’s high standing in the American theater reached a lasting plateau just three years after The Zoo Story, with the premiere of his first three-act drama, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nothing he or anybody else has written since has become so quickly and irrevocably a classic.
In 2009, anyway, Albee abruptly turned The Zoo Story into a two-act play, with a new first act, a prequel called Homelife, which shows one of the characters of the early one-act at home with his wife before he sets out for the zoo. Together, they form a new play called Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo. On top of this literary bombshell, Albee then announced that he would no longer permit The Zoo Story to be produced by professional theater companies, only by nonprofessional and college theaters. When questioned about the change, Albee replied that it was still his play and he could do as he wished with it. (“Art,” he once said to me, “is how we turn the facts into the truth.”) Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo was first produced by American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco in June 2009.
Admission to At Home at the Zoo is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (55+) and students. Click here to purchase tickets or for more information, or call the Santa Paula Theater Center at 805.525.4645.