|Glenda Jackson, Alison Pill and Laurie Metcalf. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe.|
By Edward Albee
Directed by Joe Mantello
By Lauren Yarger
Three women give towering performances in an excellent Broadway revival of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women directed by Joe Mantello.
Glenda Jackson, after an absence of decades to attend to politics (she was a member of Parliament) makes a triumphant return to the stage as A -- the older of three women talking about the ups and downs of life. B and C (Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill) are a middle-aged woman caring for older A and a young up-and-coming woman sent by A's attorney to get her affairs in order.
Sarcastic B joins forces with rude C as she shows no tolerance for the aging A, especially when the physically deteriorating, crotchety old woman has to be helped to the bathroom.
"There's nothing the matter with me," C says smugly.
"Well, you just wait," B replies.
B swings over to taking A's side in the sometimes nasty banter, however, especially when A shows she hasn't lost her sense of humor.
The scene suddenly changes when A suffers a stroke and the relationship between the three women becomes clearer as they reflect on life (the elegant bedroom set is designed by Mirian Buether). Money doesn't buy happiness and things that might be unforgivable at one stage of life suddenly don't seem so important when death looms.
"Silly, silly girl; silly baby," B chides C. "The happiest time? Now; now . . . always. This must be the happiest time: half of being adult done, the rest ahead of me. Old enough to be a little wise, past being really dumb . . . "
Three Tall Women won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1994 and it stands the test of time. It doesn't hurt that three dynamic actresses dive into the parts. Jackson is fascinating to watch. At 82, she is a formidable presence on the stage. I would bet that if Albee, who died in 2016, had a chance to experience a day back on the planet, he would choose to come see these actresses performing his play.
Metcalf, always excellent, seems particularly at home with B's dry humor. She puts it over well and gives the play its well needed relief. Pill brings complexity to her character. Not only is she the fresh-faced youth unconcerned about old-age issues she doesn't believe she'll ever have to deal with, she is vulnerable and concerned that life won't turn out the way she has envisioned. Mantello let's them find the characters and deliver powerhouse performances. Some of his blocking makes it difficult to see reactions form the other actresses while onc is speaking, however. Some of this could be interpreted to have one phase of life obscure another, but I think it would have given even more depth to be able to see reactions.
In an hour and 45 minutes that ends all too quickly, Three Tall Women show us what excellent theater looks like at the Golden, 252 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $47-$159: threetallwomenbroadway.com
Ann Roth, costume design; Paul Gallo, lighting design; Fitz Patton, sound design; Campbell Young Associates, hair and makeup design.
-- Ethnic slurs
-- God's name taken in vain