Home > Cynthia Citron, Theatre, United States of America > Albee explores the A,B,C of life and dementia

Albee explores the A,B,C of life and dementia

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

cynthia_citronBy Cynthia Citron

HOLLYWOOD–Thirty years after playwright Edward Albee dealt with the demons he encountered in academia during his student days at Trinity College in Hartford by writing the terrifying Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? he dealt with the other demons of his youth in his play Three Tall Women.”  He won his third Pulitzer Prize for the latter (his first two were for A Delicate Balance and Seascape), but, ironically, not for “Woolf,” which is arguably his best known and most successful play.           

Three Tall Women, written in 1961, is currently being given an awesome revival at the El Centro Theatre in Hollywood, and it represents Albee at his most diabolical.  He engages his audience’s unhappiest emotions—fear, despair, cynicism, and loss—through the medium of Eve Sigall, an incredibly versatile actress in an absolutely breathtaking performance.           

Sigall plays A, a 91-year old woman with dementia, who is sometimes lucid, often dismissive, and always weepy.  (“I remember everything,” she insists.  “I just can’t bring it to mind.”)  She is tended to by B (Jan Sheldrick), a patient and competent caretaker with a sardonic streak and an irreverent attitude toward everything that A holds dear.  “It’s downhill from 16 for all of us,” she says.  And rounding out this triumvirate there is C (Leah Myette), a 26-year old legal assistant who has come to straighten out A’s tangled business affairs while maintaining a chilly distance from the other two.           

There is a son in the picture as well.  A troubled young man who left home in his teens, when his mother couldn’t accept his homosexuality, and who has been estranged from her ever since.  “He packed up his attitudes and left,” his mother says.  This event, in fact, mirrors Albee’s own history with the parents who had adopted him when he was two weeks old, and with whom he never successfully bonded.           

As A rambles on about her past, her marriage, the memorable moments in being alive, there is the undeniable anticipation of her approaching death.  She discusses that, too, with a clear-eyed philosophy that intermittently denies her dementia and promises some relief from her long and troubled life.  By the time the first act ends, however, the audience is as wrung out as she is, from her raucous laughter, her sudden rages, her pitiful weeping, and the outbursts of racial bigotry and anti-Semitism which were tolerated in her generation.           
The second act belongs to B and C, who deliver their own perspective on A’s opinions and conclusions.  Sheldrick, especially, matches Sigall in emotion and intensity, and provides a second tour de force in this gritty and gripping play.            

Michael Matthews, a director with a long history of award nominations in Los Angeles, has directed this heavy drama with a light hand, and Kurt Boetcher’s bedroom design, in soothing blue and grey, provides a calm venue for the outbursts of emotional dialogue that continually blast around the room.  Tim Swiss’ lighting design is also crucial, as Sigall meanders from the present to the memories of her past.  And, as is to be expected, Sigall has the last words.  Near the end of the play she chides Sheldrick.  “Maybe you can’t remember pleasure,” she says.  “Isn’t there a little happiness along the way?”           

Three Tall Women will continue Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 through December 20th at the El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Avenue in Hollywood.  Call (323) 460-4443 for tickets.          

Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: