“We should talk,” huffs Ann (Christina Lang), barefoot and cross-armed in the first scene of Boise Contemporary Theater’s performance of Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo. Unphased by this loaded conversation instigator, Peter (Gordon Reinhart) remains engrossed in his thick textbook. When he finally peers up, Ann has left the couple’s sparse modern living room—light wood paneling, an uncluttered coffee table and a sleek green sofa (designed by Rick Martin.) When she reemerges, she gets exactly what she asked for—“talk” is about the only thing the couple does for the rest of act one. They go on about everything from breasts to circumcisions to sleepless nights to lingering regrets, all with a candor that lets us know this type of connection between them doesn’t occur often.
Through Ann and Peter’s dialogue—filled with classic Albee truisms and turns of phrase—a picture emerges of two outwardly happy, yet estranged and ultimately disconnected, adults. Act one, or Homelife, was created by Albee in 2001 as a companion piece to his classic 1958 play, A Zoo Story (which becomes act two in At Home at the Zoo.) Through Homelife, the audience is introduced to Peter's attributes—he's distracted, naive, submissive—which, in act two, are tested by a talkative transient named Jerry (Matthew Cameron Clark) on a bench in Central Park.
For the most part, these three actors managed to pull off Albee’s dialogue-heavy, action-bare drama with spot-on performances. Though Lang’s excessive gesturing and over-emotive delivery was a bit distracting at the beginning of the first act, she eventually eased into her role of the nagging, unfulfilled wife who yearns for more excitement, with believable grace. Reinhart, on the other hand, played the role of Peter, a balding, bookish, upper-middle class pushover, convincingly from the start, as he channeled the flawed optimism of Frasier Crane (minus the snobbery.) But the show really belongs to Clark, who, for all his twitchy, crazy-man rocking and confrontational lack of social graces, was able to convey all-to-well the captivating pathos of Jerry.
While long-time Albee fans should find lots to love in BCT’s performance of At Home at the Zoo, it’s Clark’s superb turn as Jerry that will make converts of the uninitiated.