Beginning Friday, Jan. 25, the University of Dayton Theatre Program is presenting “The American Dream” and “Zoo Story.”
Both pieces are by Edward Albee, an experimental playwright who changed the voice of American theatre and one of the most prolific playwrights in American history, said Tony Dallas, a local director in charge of these particular shows at UD.
Dallas said that Albee grew up outside of New York City with adoptive parents and ran away when he was a teen leaving behind his privileged life.
The playwright opened up American theatre, using language that was not considered to be prim and proper and addressing taboo topics.
Dallas said that Albee is one of the most inventive and experimental playwrights that America has had.
Both of Albee’s plays that UD is performing are one-act.
Dallas said “The American Dream” is a comedic, absurdist play that shatters the myth of the happy American home, and the characters are large and cartoon like.
“Zoo Story” was the first play that Albee wrote, and it is a much darker look at America and deals with issues such as social responsibility and it holds up a harsh mirror to American society, he said.
Alex Chilton, an English major who plays the character Jerry in “Zoo Story,” said that the story involves two characters who meet at a park bench in New York City.
The play begins with one character saying to the other, “I’ve been to the zoo” and goes to some crazy places towards the end, Chilton said.
According to Chilton, as a character, Jerry is someone who yearns for a connection with other human beings and is unable to find strong relational or emotional attachments with any person throughout his life.
“The play is a critique of upper-class living and their ignorance of how other people live,” said Chilton.
An allegory is made that there are literal bars between the animals and the people and Jerry is attempting to get across the point that there are figurative bars between people in society and it is difficult to connect to one another.
Chilton said that he has enjoyed working on the play and Jerry is one of the most difficult characters he has had to interpret.
“It’s a very valuable play that has a lot to say,” Chilton said. “It is not light fluff, and both plays are very hard hitting and worthwhile to see.
“Both plays connect to a modern audience because they address things that human beings share throughout eternity such as what is love and how we connect to one another,” he continued. “It is timeless but very pertinent to the time we’re living in right now.”
“Not only are these plays important but they will be very entertaining,” Dallas said. “The purpose of theatre is to act as a place to go to reflect on who we are as people and as a society.”
The plays will take place in the Boll Theatre at Kennedy Union. Admission is $7 for UD students, faculty and staff, and $12 for general admission.
Show times are at 8 p.m. Jan. 25-26, 7 p.m. on Jan. 27, 8 and 8 p.m. Jan. 31 through Feb. 2.
For more information contact the theatre program at 937-229-3950 or visit arts.udayton.edu.