Group: Ganakrishti

Dramatist: Edward Albee

Adaptation and direction: Amitava Dutta

Recommended: ★★★★


Ganakrishti’s recent fascination with such icons of absurdism as Beckett and Albee manifests in a wonderful new venture on Ghare Bāire Chiriyākhānā, a scrupulously faithful adaptation by Amitava Dutta of Albee’s penultimate work, At Home at the Zoo. We welcome it wholeheartedly also because it provides Bengali audiences one of their infrequent glimpses into Western drama of the 21st century.

A brief backgrounder: Albee had always felt that his instant-classic debut, The Zoo Story (1959), required fleshing-out of Peter’s back story, since Jerry occupied much more of the one-act play than seemed desirable. So in 2004 he wrote a prequel titled Homelife (he said it poured out of him almost spontaneously), which he stapled to Zoo Story for a double bill, and later joined them as the two-act At Home at the Zoo. Homelife depicts the tense married life of Peter and Ann in their apartment, just before Peter leaves for Central Park—the scene of Zoo Story.

No one represents marital disharmony like Albee did: we only have to recall Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance to rest our case. Homelife continues in this vein, without ever xeroxing moments from those past masterpieces. But knowing the couple’s unhappiness gives another perspective and dramatic irony to Peter’s avowals to Jerry of happy domesticity, as well as an interpretative twist to the shock ending.

Ganakrishti had an intimate-theatre version of Zoo Story running since 2018, named Chiriyākhānār Galpa (see my review), which director Dutta appends to his translation of Homelife to create a regular proscenium production, though it could function equally in a studio. The setting remains Kolkata and the characters Bengalis as in the previous edition, Ann transformed to Anu, enacted by Soma Dutta with frustration and confrontation, besides love. As Peter’s equivalent, Saumya, Swarnendu Sen now carries the show through both acts with a clearer sense of unease, if not fear, about his life. Amitava needs to inject pauses into their dialogue much more liberally to reflect their mutual discomfort. He should also remove his opening sequence that unnecessarily elucidates their monotony, and tone down Goutam Ghosh’s in-your-face soundtrack. Saptarshi Bhowmick reprises his portrait of Jiban (Jerry).


3 March 2023