Peter Strauss Will Be At Home at the Zoo at Victory Gardens; Season of New Works Announced

News   Peter Strauss Will Be At Home at the Zoo at Victory Gardens; Season of New Works Announced
The Chicago premiere of Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo, starring film and TV star Peter Strauss, will open the 2010-11 season of Victory Gardens Theatre. Artistic director Dennis Zacek will direct.

The new season by the Tony Award-winning company known for giving voice to new works — many penned by its playwrights ensemble — will also feature the world premiere of The Boys Room by ensemble member Joel Drake Johnson.

Victory Gardens associate artistic director Sandy Shinner will stage Johnson's play, which is billed this way: "When the American Dream is out of reach, what is a man to do? In The Boys Room, ensemble playwright Joel Drake Johnson walks the line exquisitely between laughter and tears. Two middle-aged brothers try to escape their responsibilities and race each other back to their boyhood bedroom — that sanctuary where they can dream and scheme without the pressure of the outside world. One is unemployed; the other is making a living but is not sure why he should live. The women in their lives are knocking on the door, filled with questions and, sometimes, love."

The Boys Room will feature Chicago actress Mary Ann Thebus, Jeff Award-nominated as Best Actress in Victory Gardens' 2007 critically acclaimed debut of Johnson's Four Places, as the mother of the "boys."

The slate also includes the Chicago premiere of Tree by Victory Gardens newcomer Julie Hébert, plus ensemble member Charles Smith's The Gospel According to James. A fifth production is to be announced.

At Home at the Zoo is a pairing of Albee's classic one-act A Zoo Story and the recently written prequel, Homelife. Strauss is best known for his starring roles in such made-for-TV films as "Rich Man, Poor Man" and "The Jericho Mile." The new At Home at the Zoo will feature Chicago favorites Annabel Armour and Marc Grapey. Zacek first worked with Strauss in student productions at Northwestern University. Tree, directed by Victory Gardens' resident director Andrea J. Dymond, is a "provoking and powerful new play [that] depicts three generations divided by race, culture, time and place," according to VGT. "A divorced chaef, Leo, is caring for his aging mother with the help of his college-age daughter when Didi, a Southern white woman, barges into their lives with a provocative cache of love letters. Written by her deceased father, the letters reveal a compelling family secret. In search of the truth, Leo must sift through the addled memories of his mother and her surprising and contradictory stories of her dangerous interracial romance. Eloquently melding realism and poetry, Tree fosters a deep, true conversation between people who are linked in many ways, but separated by race."

Hébert's plays include Abe Lincoln's Dog, The Knee Desires the Dirt, Almost Asleep, True Beauties, St. Joan and the Dancing Sickness and Ruby's Bucket of Blood, which she also adapted into a film for Showtime, starring Angela Bassett.

The Gospel According to James, a Chicago premiere, is set in 1930 in Indiana, where "five young people are eager to break out of their small town," according to VGT. "They need a car. They have a gun. But years later, contradictory memories are all that are left of their grand plans. Based on the double lynching immortalized by the iconic Lawrence Beitler photograph, The Gospel According to James creates a fictional meeting between the man who survived the lynching and the only woman with them that night. By dramatizing the events leading up to the crime, Smith, acclaimed author of Victory Gardens' history-based smash hits Denmark, The Sutherland and Knock Me a Kiss, explores how unreliable personal memory underlies what we believe to be an immutable public history."

Production dates and a fifth play for Victory Gardens' 2010-2011 subscription series are to be announced.

The Victory Gardens Biograph Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. For complete information, visit

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