Albee has described the play as "an exorcism." I think this is may be
the key not only to understanding the play, but its towering reputation. Theater as therapy usually serves the author better than the audience and though Albee is one of the few playwrights talented enough to make such an exercise work, there’s still something unsatisfying about Three Tall Women, as if it’s too personal. (Lyric Stage Company has helpfully included an essay about Albee and
his family history in the program.) But coming from a playwright known for being caustic and opaque, a play that’s humane by his standards and elegant by any standard, is almost a relief. And with the added value of seeming to offer insight into Albee’s entire oeuvre, Three Tall Women is perhaps easy to over praise.
Perhaps it’s just the sheer weight of the play’s cold negativity that
left me feeling unsatisfied by the end, impressed but unmoved. Despite the wonderful performances and sensitive direction, despite Albee’s dazzling virtuosity in the second act, despite his courage in staring at death, there’s something too distant and cerebral about this abstracted meditation on life. I didn’t leave the Lyric feeling invigorated by the experience the way one would hope to leave a play, be it comic or tragic. I think that’s because the most crucial part of the experience, the satisfaction in coming to terms with A,
belongs to Albee alone.
Friday, April 04, 2008
Albee's Personal Project
Bay Windows critic Brian Jewell on Three Tall Women: