Three Tall Women

(By Edward Albee) (Adelaide University Theatre Guild premiere, 9 August 2017)

Albee’s slices of New England life, where families light up and tear each other down, succeed on the whole because he was a master of exteriors that demonstrated the angst within. With this unsatisfactory work of his later period, however, he is working from within and as such the play never catches fire.

An act of ‘exorcism’ to help the playwright debride the memory of his domineering adoptive mother, the first part has a bedridden old lady (aged 92? 91?) attended by her former self and misunderstood by her younger incarnation.  In Act Two, the stricken relict takes the form of a cushion, whilst the three tall women assume her forms in earlier decades.  (The estranged, errant son sits silently at the bed, gazing at the stroke victim with the comfy face.)

There are hints here of a life, and the different facets of a soul along the scale of time are cleverly done.  But truth be told, this is milk-and-water Albee.

The playing of the matriarch (by Jean Walker), all beady eye, confused anger and cackling reminiscence, was very effective. Rachel Burfield (‘B’) was solid in support; Jessica Carroll, as the young emanation (‘C’), had little to do.  The east coast accents need a little work.  The sets were minimalist (especially compared to the first productions in the 1990s), but were handled with typical Theatre Guild wit, taste, and economy.  We enjoyed the evening but there are no real insights in this piece; indeed, for Albee, the observations are awesomely trite.



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