Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Three Tall Women"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Chuck Galle

"Three Tall Women"

Reviewed by Chuck Galle

See oursels as ithers see us!
To A Louse, Robert Burns

Or, how about checking in with our earlier selves just about the time we check out, to show us what we will become? Like 26, 52 and 92? Would anyone's 26 believe their own 92? Could 92 guide 26 around the mistakes of youth? Would youth consider them mistakes? This is the thesis Edward Albee determines to discuss in Three Tall Women. The woman is his adoptive mother, a woman locked into an abysmal relationship with her homosexual son, which relationship was apparently the culmination of unsatisfying relationships with men. I understand that Albee warns us not to take this play too literally regarding this contentious connection with his mother and I think that for many of us the warning is unnecessary, because this powerful drama really is about us all. The woman known as A could pose the same dilemma for us were she accustomed to happiness. I think life never happens for anyone as planned, and if perchance it has for some, more's the pity. What a waste of good old fashioned unforeseen. Anyway, the woman who is three tall women puts us through an emotional romp that is wry and philosophical, maddening and warm, funny and brutally cruel: that is; through a questioning of ourselves. Albee, the master of writing for actors, offers ourselves up for our own entertainment. Under the able direction of MaryAnn Robertson, Players' Ring Portsmouth NH presents Three Tall Women through September 16. Go see it.

Sarah Bailey, Jewel Davis and Kristan Raymond Robinson perform the woman who is three women. Although the characters known as A, B and C seem to be three distinct characters in act one; the nonagenarian, her companion and a representative from her lawyer, it doesn't take long to realize that B and C represent youth and maturity, and indeed they return in Act II as the 26 and 52 year old versions of A herself. The device works well; we feel completely comfortable with the transition. What carries the story and the emotional unzipping of ourselves is the performance, of course. Jewel Davis acts for us the elderly matron; cantankerous, fading in and out of the present, frightened by her loss of memories, smug in the authority of age. I wish she would devote less energy to displaying her vocal prowess and more to connecting with her audience, but her hard work can be readily seen in this tour de force. Sarah Bailey, whom we recall fondly from last season's Side Man accepts an almost thankless role as the young, fresh B, who has nothing to learn yet, and no place to put what she does learn. Virtually a foil for the two older versions, Sarah handles the part with aplomb and grace. Crisp Kristan Raymond Robinson so becomes the role of B we hardly are aware she's acting. It's all so conversational and off hand that it is with subtle pleasure that we realize that her lines come immediately on the heels of a cue. She is the model of sedate maturity except for two and half or three minutes of raw, unbridled emotion that spill from her as naturally as water over Niagara in the middle of the second act. You don't have to look for this one; it'll kick you in the guts and grab your throat like a New York mugger. Andrew Fling handles the mute role of The Young Man with a fine understated power, performing the ritual of adulthood. In the end we all lose our parents, and in the end we all lose ourselves. Thanks to the performances of these four fine actors here's a chance to think about what all that means, and laugh at it a bit, and to ponder it after the lights go down.

Three Tall Women at Players' Ring, 105 Marcy St., Portsmouth NH, 03801 ( Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 7PM through 16 September. Call 603-436-8123 for reservations. Tickets $10, seniors, students, $8.

"Three Tall Women" (till 16 September)

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide