Albee’s Three Tall Women on Broadway
The story has it that Edward Albee’s parents got him for $133.30 at the adoption agency. They always talked how they wanted to return him claiming it was the worst business deal. It has never been a secret in the family which made Albee’s relationship with his socialite mother complicated.
The main character of the “Three Tall Women” is based on Albee’s mother and their conversations about life, marriage, relationships.
Although it’s a two-act play, there’s no intermission and it runs for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
There are three characters in the play and they are named A, B, and C. 92-year-old A is on her death bed. Coming from life of privilege, she is aristocratic, selfish, and vile. 52-year-old B is A’s caretaker. She is cynical but accommodating. 26-year-old self-assured C is a clerk from a law firm tracking bills unpaid by A.
First half is pretty much A’s monologue, where, plagued by incontinence, in between bathrooms runs, she reminiscences about the life she married up into. B and C just contribute unto this monologue. It is mesmerizing to watch 81-year-old Glenda Jackson (A) holding the audience for 10 minutes straight — or longer — without interruption. There were moments, I felt two other actors were just sitting and watching their partner in awe.
Then, A has a stroke. Part One ends. Pause. And this is when Albee begins.
All three characters dressed in lilac are now the same person at different stages of A’s life. C is the one before the marriage, B — after, and A is the one after the stroke. C is looking with horror and disbelief on what she’s going to become, A is embracing the end: “That’s the happiest moment. When it’s all done. When we stop. When we can stop.”
One more character enters the stage here. The son. Their son. He has no lines. But he’s up there for to each female character to show the feelings and relationships evolved: accepting and eager C, rejecting and vicious B, forgiving A.
What hit me closest on my 53rd birthday, when 52-year-old B (mesmerizing Laurie Metcalf) comes to the forestage, spans her arms wide like a bird — her movements that of a dancer — as if embracing the C on her right and A on her left and pronounces that the happiest time is being 52 when you’ve got some experience, some wisdom, and can see 360 degrees around — the young and the old. “What a view!” And the audience goes wild!
I saw Laurie Metcalf autographing playbills after the show. The kindness in her eyes and her interest in others were breathtaking. And that eye contact. I am in love.