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Zoo Story, The

jerry peter dog bench

a one-act play by Edward Albee, first performed in 1959 in Berlin. This two-handed drama presents Jerry, a man of ‘great weariness’, who accosts Peter, a family man who works in textbook publishing, on a Central Park bench. Peter listens reluctantly as Jerry promises to recount his visit to the zoo. That story remains untold, but Jerry caricatures Peter's middle-class family as a menagerie, and tells him about his own background, the lodging house full of New York's isolated, marginalized people where he is a ‘permanent transient’, and his fear of his sexually starved landlady and her Cerberus-like black dog. He tried to appease the dog with bribes of hamburger meat, and when that failed, poisoned it. The dog recovered, and Jerry believes even their antagonism preferable to indifference. Peter's response modulates from frigidity to a shocked, rueful acknowledgement of kinship. Jerry continues to play cat-and-mouse, hovering between compassion and mockery, and Peter finally tries to claim ownership of the bench, fearing that Jerry is a mugger. Jerry produces a knife, but then scornfully surrenders it. As Peter holds the knife defensively, Jerry hurls himself upon it, and dies, urging Peter to deny all involvement. The tragi-comic parody of Christ's Passion ends with Peter's appalled cries of ‘Oh … my … God’.

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