note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Robin McGuire
Pulitzer Prize-winner, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, now playing at the Lyric Stage through April 26, is a testament to, according to Albee, “a mother I didn’t know or love.” From his strong and ironically sensitive portrayal of his mother it seems she really didn’t know or love him either. Three Tall Women is a thoughtful and rare glimpse at a life, which at times is so personal it is painful to watch.
This autobiographical tale and what The Boston Globe says is “the best play Edward Albee has written” centers on an old woman in her last days reminiscing and in a sometimes dementia state, provides details about her life and loves. Albee’s bitter and angry woman occasionally draws empathy and her pathetic ramblings, sympathy.
Albee who was adopted and then disowned by his mother, once stated that by writing this heart rendering and deeply personal play he “got her out of my system, but then I get all my characters in all of my plays out of my system by writing about them.”
The first act is bit like watching a sketch or scene from a Hallmark made for TV movie with the mother, nicely played by Anne Scurria, burning through every emotion in the book; hate, anger, despair, with a few well-placed comedic sequences thrown in to lighten the emotionally intense load. Paula Plum aptly depicts a middle-aged, less hopeful, more realistic woman as a caregiver and sometime friend to the old lady. The still optimistic and foolish ingénue played by Liz Hayes somewhat rushes her lines as if to get through a difficult situation.
The second act brings what was only hinted at in the first, all three women are one in the same at different stages in their life. As the females view the practically lifeless body of the woman they are, each details how they made it to this end place, step-by-step from the tall clever, attractive woman with men at her feet to the wise and smart-witted woman who banishes her son from her life, to the helpless woman they see before them. And so it goes…as the female characters in the play state so often.
As the three women rage on in their respective generations, the circle is completed by “the boy” who really should be in his sixties, silently played by Dan Kerrigan, sitting intently viewing his mother’s comatose body. It is as if the years of pain the mother and boy felt would somehow miraculously vanish if he just stared at her hard enough.
Director Spiro Veloudos creates a place for Albee’s work to shine unfettered by allowing each character to spill out their passions. The clean, uncluttered set by Christina Todesco allows all eyes on the dramatization.
Intended or not, Albee’s Three Tall Women is a fascinating and complicated view of a woman’s life that is very authentic and reflective. And so it goes…