BWW Review: iTheatre Collaborative Presents Edward Albee's THREE TALL WOMEN
Truth be told, not all mothers are nice or lovable or nurturing. Yet, whatever shortcomings of maternal character they possess, they are yet persons whom their offspring may begrudgingly concede have attributes meriting admiration.
Edward Albee embraced this paradox in THREE TALL WOMEN, a sobering (and perhaps cathartic) reflection on the adoptive mother from whom he was estranged ~ a self-possessed and intolerant socialite who rejected him when he revealed his homosexuality. The winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize is a uniquely and imaginatively structured play in the way that Albee constructs the portrait of this woman.
Continuing in its tradition of presenting socially relevant and provocative theatre, iTheatre Collaborative has scored again with a riveting production of this work, directed by Christopher Haines and featuring compelling and impassioned performances by Susan St. John, Marlene Galan-Woods, and Kristina Rogers.
On a stage furnished with elements that whisper of wealth, three characters, named only by letters of the alphabet, contend with one another. We understand them to be three different women. A (Ms. St. John) is the irascible 92-year-old matron, adrift in waves of dementia between which she spouts remembrances of her socialite past, sprinkling her narrative with the foul bigotry of mindless aristocrats. Tolerating and consoling A's incessant accounts and outbursts is B (Ms. Galan-Woods), the stoic and composed (shall we say middle-aged) caretaker, who acknowledges A's crustiness with refrains of "So it goes!" C (Ms. Rogers) is the young attorney who has arrived to dispose of necessary business that A has negligently disposed of in her things-to-do-drawer. This then is Act I, a mad and contentious dance between three distinct personalities, each reflecting a different temperament at distinct stages of life. And, so it goes that Act I ends with A succumbing to a stroke!
As the first act establishes the profile of A, Act II is Albee's turn of theatrical genius wherein A, B, and C are the same woman but at different stages of her life. Here is where St. John, Galan-Woods, and Rogers light fire to their performances. As the figure of the deceased A lies in bed, her silent son (Victor Arevalo) at her side, the "three tall women" reveal themselves and the drives that defined them at each step of their life's journey.
Here is the majesty of the play ~ where we are compelled to understand that the life of A, like the lives of us all, is a continuum along which we either err or excel, meriting understanding and maybe forgiveness. I do not know if Albee expresses forgiveness for A, but I do sense that he commits to understanding her, warts and all.
When A, B, C stand together to bring closure to the journey, their (Albee's amen) final words strike the deepest chord of truth: "That's the happiest moment. When it's all done. When we stop. When we can stop."
THREE TALL WOMEN completes its run on November 2nd in the Kax Theatre at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, AZ.
Photo credit to Christopher Haines ~ L to R: Marlene Galan-Woods, Victor Arevalo, Susan St. John, Kristina Rogers