BWW Review: THREE TALL WOMEN at Little Theatre, University Of Adelaide

BWW Review: THREE TALL WOMEN at Little Theatre, University Of AdelaideReviewed by Barry Lenny, Wednesday 9th August 2017

The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild is offering a phenomenal piece of theatre with Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, directed by Geoff Brittain. In 1994 it won Best Play from the Drama Critics Circle and the Outer Critics Circle, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This is an autobiographical work. Coming out as a homosexual, and being rejected by the wealthy family that had adopted him, Albee left home, as the son in this play had done.

In each act, we meet three women, referred to only as A, the eldest, B, the middle-aged, and C, the youngest.

A wealthy old woman, aged 91, she says, is close to death. A young woman from a law firm corrects her, pointing out that she is actually 92. A third woman, of middle-age, the old lady's carer, insists that it doesn't matter. Dementia has overtaken the bitter and lonely old lady, and she is physically frail, eventually suffering a stroke at the close of the first act.

In the second act, the comatose body of the old lady is motionless in the bed, achieved by the employment of a very effective dummy. Three women, aged 26, 52, and a senior citizen, discuss their life. They are, in fact, the same elderly woman from the first act at three times in her life, looking backwards and forwards, and analysing everything that she was and did.

Jean Walker is astounding as the dying woman, giving me another to add to my small mental list of the best performances that I have seen over my decades, first as an ordinary audience member and, later, as a critic. This is definitely one out of the box and will be spoken of for a long time to come. People will judge other performances by this benchmark.

Rachel Burfield begins as the sensitive and professional woman who is the old lady's carer, working around her foibles and allowing the occasionAl Verbal abuse to wash over her, whilst also dealing with the lawyer, attempting to placate both. A dramatic change in characterisation in the second act finds her superbly portraying an angry and bitter woman, furious at the son who walked out on her. This is another strong performance from Burfield.

Jessica Carroll plays the stiff and frustrated lawyer, trying to get the old woman to sign documents to sort out her finances, a large collection of unpaid bills and uncashed cheques, showing her character becoming overwhelmed and having trouble taking in everything that she encounters in trying to deal with her client. She then plays a rather naïve and idealistic young woman in the second act, who is expecting to have a wonderful life. Carroll displays well the shock and disappointment, mixed with disbelief, as the older women tell her what is ahead, and how everything goes down hill.

Amin Zargarian appears in the second act as the old lady's son, sitting at the bedside and holding her hand, in a non-speaking role, emoting over his mother and reacting to the occasionAl Verbal assault from B, which seems a trifle odd as he is presumably in the real world, and she is not, and he should thus be unaware of her presence. This is a minor quibble.

Ole Wiebkin's elaborate set depicts the bedroom of the old lady which we suspect is the only room in which she has been living for some time, and Scott Cleggett's lighting is very effective. Director, Geoff Brittain, has a success on his hands with this work.

If you make any claim at all to loving great theatre, you'll see this one, but speed is of the essence if you want tickets. Word gets around quickly in Adelaide so don't miss out.

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From This Author Barry Lenny

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