Play: Three Tall Women
Group: Muddy Waters Theatre
Venue: Kranzberg Art Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters Building, Grand at Olive
Dates: February 20,21,22,27,28, March 1
Tickets: $20; contact 314-540-7831 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Story: Three women gather in the bedroom of the eldest lady, a woman in her early 90s. She is cared for by a middle-aged woman in her early 50s, and they are joined by a 26-year-old attorney who represents the older lady’s law firm. The latter is there because the elder woman, Lady ‘A,’ has lapsed in signing important documents. Lady A’s memory is failing, and she spends her time bouncing between various reminiscences of her youth, her marriage and her strained relationship with her only child. She consistently peppers her talks with references to her once-imposing physical stature and how that played a pivotal role in her relationships.
Highlights: The most autobiographical of playwright Edward Albee’s many works, Three Tall Women won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s difficult to discern that accolade from its sluggish and peculiar first act, but much easier to understand in the drama’s powerful second half. The current production at Muddy Waters Theatre’s new home at the Kranzberg Art Center is given a powerful and effective interpretation by director Jerry McAdams. He cultivates a strong rapport in the often testy relationships between the three characters, each of whom represents the same woman at different stages of her life, yet interacting with each other throughout.
Other Info: Nancy Crouse delivers a strong and dominating performance as A. She effectively portrays the many facets of the elderly woman’s character, from the hopeful giddiness of her flirtatious youth through the snatches of happiness in her marriage to a “short, one-eyed” playboy to the disenchantment of widowhood and her anger and disappointment with her only child and his homosexual lifestyle, which has led to a staggering 20-year separation.
Kate Frisina is equally adept as B, who is A as a smart, sophisticated 52-year-old. She can be playful and romantic in her recollections or cold and spiteful, bellowing out against her unfaithful husband and her disappointing son. Nicely completing the trio is Laura Sexauer as C, excited about her fun-loving youth and still optimistic about her future, which she romanticizes filled with happiness with the man of her dreams, an illusion all too frequently shattered by her cynical counterparts.
Ted Drury fills the non-speaking role of the son, who sits at the bedside of A in the second act after she’s stricken with a stroke. There’s not much to do with the part, which perhaps is what Albee was saying about his estranged relationship with his mother.
Russell Bettlach’s costumes nicely switch from the modest attire of the two older ladies and the business suit of C in Act One to a trio of smart evening attire in the second act, each appropriate for the particular age of the characters. Laura Castanon provides suitable lighting for the handsome set designed by Kerith Parashak, which features a sturdy old bed and some chairs and divan, with a framed musical composition curiously adorning the wall behind the bed.
As the first of three works by Albee to be performed by Muddy Waters this season, Three Tall Women gets this mini-Albee festival off to an intriguing start.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.