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Two Plays by Edward Albee: The American Dream / The Zoo Story
Two Plays by Edward Albee The American Dream / The Zoo Story Author:Edward Albee The American Dream — The play, a satire on American family life, concerns a married couple and their elderly mother. They are visited by two guests this particular day who turn their world upside down. — The family in this play consist of a dominating Mommy, an emasculated Daddy and a clever and witty Grandma. A neighbor, Mrs. Barker, enter... more »s and the dialogue continues with the occasional interjection by Grandma. Mommy and Daddy exit leaving Mrs. Barker and Grandma alone. Grandma apparently knows why Mrs. Barker has been asked to come by and explains to her that Mommy and Daddy had adopted a son from her many years previously. As the parents objected to the child's actions, they mutilated it as punishment, eventually killing it. After Mrs. Barker exits, a Young Man appears at the door looking for work. After hearing his life story, Grandma realizes that this Young Man, whom she dubs "The American Dream," is the twin of Mommy and Daddy's first child. As the first child was mutilated, he too was experiencing the pain and has been left as an empty shell of a man. After seeing this Young Man as a way out, she moves her things and leaves. The Young Man is introduced to the family as a suitable replacement for the original child.
Albee explores not only the falsity of the American Dream but also the American family's status quo. As he states in the preface to the play, "[It is] an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, emasculation, and vacuity; it is a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen.
The Zoo Story
This one-act play concerns two characters, Peter and Jerry. Peter is a middle-class publishing executive with a wife, two daughters, two cats and two parakeets who lives in ignorance of the world outside his settled life. Jerry is an isolated and disheartened man who lives in a boarding house and is very troubled. These men meet on a park bench in New York City's Central Park. 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 stories from his life, including "THE STORY OF JERRY AND THE DOG", 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 humor and unrelenting dramatic suspense are brought to a climax when Jerry brings his victim down to his own savage level.
The catalyst for the shocking ending transpires when Peter announces, "I really must be going home;..." Jerry, in response, begins to tickle Peter. Peter giggles, laughs and agrees to listen to Jerry finish telling "what happened at the zoo." At the same time Jerry begins pushing Peter off the bench. Peter decides to fight for his territory on the bench and becomes angry. Unexpectedly, Jerry pulls a knife on Peter, and then drops it as initiative for Peter to grab. When Peter holds the knife defensively, Jerry charges him and impales himself on the knife. Bleeding on the park bench, Jerry finishes his zoo story by bringing it into the immediate present, "Could I have planned all this. No... no, I couldn't have. But I think I did." Horrified, Peter runs away from Jerry whose dying words, "Oh... my... God", are a combination of scornful mimicry and supplication.« less