Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Three Tall Women by Edward Albee (1994)

Summary: Three actresses play a character (not named) at different points in her life—around late 80s, 52 and 26. The actress playing the 26 year-old version is often dismissive of the advice given by older versions of herself. As such, they are both hyper-critical towards this young version of themselves. The oldest incarnation of this character is literally on her deathbed during the second act and repeatedly speaks in vague terms about an estranged son possibly coming to visit her. He does eventually visit, but never speaks.

In his Introduction, Albee explains, “I did not want to write a revenge piece.” However, he also makes it very clear that this play is about his adoptive mother, with whom he had a very troubled relationship (“I did not like her much, could not abide her prejudices, her loathings, her paranoias.”) With this set up, Albee creates three separate characters (though they are actually the same person), each deeply flawed. At times when they are delivering their major monologues, they paint themselves as completely unlikeable—only to later be redeemed by a different version of themselves.

Because of his extraordinarily personal introduction (he never claims that the play is not autobiographical) parts of this play made me feel like I know much more about Edward Albee than I actually do. One of the most heightened moments happens when the mother character graphically describes having adulterous sex in a barn with a stable hand, then stating that her son confronted her about it. As retaliation, she reflects on the incendiary comments made about his homosexuality that caused his abrupt premature departure from home.

"People often ask me how long it takes me to write a play, and I tell them 'all of my life.'"
-Edward Albee in the Introduction to Three Tall Women

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