(12 March 1928 – 16 September 2016)
“It’s just a quirk of the brain that makes one a playwright,” Albee said. Maybe so, and growing up, precocious, adopted and gay, he had plenty to think and write about. But only Albee had the discipline, perseverance and talent to write excoriating and personal dramas that broke social taboos, without (unlike much contemporary drama) descending to platitudinous speeches or moral grandstanding. The characters he adopted to his dramas were treated with respect and understanding, and yes, even love.
Most of his plays were set amongst the bourgeoisie, but were never complacent nor reliant on trite social / class symbolism. He would pick at the scab of o-so-clever veneers and incise the suppurating flesh just beneath, in wonderful pieces that reverberate today and deserve ongoing attention: A Delicate Balance, The Zoo Story, All Over and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
He got a lucky break when his first adult play premiered in Berlin, 1959. Then he rode his luck, observing that Careers are funny things. They begin mysteriously and, just as mysteriously, they can end… After a spectacular decade or so of success, he spent a couple in the wilderness, sticking at it in an exemplary way while he went out of, and returned to, fashion.
As the Mistress says in All Over: …maybe I’ll just go to Berlin and stare at the wall. We were there when they put it up. There’s so much one can do. And so little.
Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.