As A, B and C confront their various self-images, illusions and memories, the monster of Act One yields to our deeper understanding of who she has been. What makes Albee's play so moving is not that all three are the same woman; it's that all three of them are us. Together, they create a singular experience at the theater.
THREE TALL WOMEN Broadway Reviews
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Edward Albee won his third Pulitzer prize for this 1991 play. Belatedly it now makes its Broadway debut a year and a half after his death. Following last year's West End revivals of his early 1960s masterpiece Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and his provocative 2000 play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, this magisterial revival confirms what a bold and formally inventive playwright he was.
Mantello once again demonstrates his sensitive touch for high drama, as in The Humans and Other Desert Cities. He and set designer Miriam Buether have some tricks up their joint sleeves, about which the less said the better the surprise. (Mantello was very much on my mind entering the Golden, having spent the prior two evenings at Angels in America-in the original Broadway production of which he vibrantly created the role of Louis Ironson.)
The performance [Jackson], in fact, refutes A's theory that life becomes sweetest when we're past mortal cares. Long may Jackson harbor such concerns, and share them with us.
Jackson (a two-time Oscar-winner and former member of British Parliament), Metcalf (who just returned to the role of Jackie Harris on the "Roseanne" reboot) and Pill (a Tony nominee with many stage and screen credits) all give superb performances.
The play is set up as a diptych, but it's really an anatomy of a single life. This Broadway production, gracefully directed by Joe Mantello, performs the work without an intermission, underscoring the seamlessness of Albee's vision.
81-year-old Oscar winner Glenda Jackson dominates this revival, at least for the first half. Having now seen Jackson's absolutely monumental A, it's almost impossible to conceive Albee's first act any other way.
Everyone going to "Three Tall Women" at the Golden Theatre hopes for a great revival. Good news: There are actually two. One is the superb new production of Edward Albee's 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama that's been directed with a sure hand and more than a touch of class by Joe Mantello. The other is the breathtaking Broadway reboot of Glenda Jackson, a two-time Oscar winner and four-time Tony nominee who's been away from the New York stage since starring in "Macbeth" in 1988. Four years later, she traded acting for U.K. politics and just recently returned to performing.
Three Tall Women, directed with a sublimely paced grace by Joe Mantello, is very funny and very sad. It charts the progress of a life, and a discussion of the self as it ages, from the vantage point of knowing everything, down through the middle age of knowing quite a bit, and then the young person not knowing much at all.
In "Three Tall Women," the 1991 Edward Albee play finally making its Broadway debut at the Golden Theatre this week, the women are identified very simply: A, B and C. But, oh, such women director Joe Mantello has brought together. Glenda Jackson, making a welcome return to the New York stage after serving in Parliament for 23 years, is A, the 92-year-old (admitting only to 91) grande dame hovering on senility, lashing out at the other two at every opportunity. Laurie Metcalf, hard to miss these days with her recent Oscar nomination for "Lady Bird" and her return to TV in "Roseanne," is B, the put-upon caretaker, and Tony nominee Alison Pill ("The Lieutenant of Inishmore") is C, the lawyer.
Her jaw thrust forward like a prow, her elfin eyes belying her regal bearing, her wide-screen mouth wrapping itself around those slashing, implacable consonants - they're all exactly as you remember them and want them to be. Or if you've never experienced them, welcome to the pleasure. Either way, Glenda Jackson is back; even better, she's back in a role that's big enough to need her.
Watching Glenda Jackson in theatrical flight is like looking straight into the sun. Her expressive face registers her thoughts while guarding her feelings. But it's the voice that really thrills. Deeply pitched and clarion clear, it's the commanding voice of stern authority. Don't mess with this household god or she'll turn you to stone.
Review: 'Three Tall Women' on Broadway: In a masterful Albee production starring Laurie Metcalf, this trio could be you
Mantello's stunning production bulges out the vascularity of this fantastic play. Metcalf is a key weapon in his arsenal, because we immediately intuit her no-nonsense Midwestern humanity, thus leavening a common problem with this play, namely its WASPy chill.
Director Mantello (The Humans, Wicked) knows his way around this play, finding the action - yes, action - in a work that's mostly, wonderfully talk. He orchestrates the conversation and guides his first-rate cast with an effortlessness matched point by point throughout this production. Miriam Buether's bedroom set design, to pick one example, begins the play as the very illustration of confinement - grand and lovely confinement, but still - before transforming itself into something as expansive as memory.
Stage acting doesn't get any better than Glenda Jackson's performance as the autocratic nonagenarian in Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, modeled on the adoptive mother with whom the playwright had a famously thorny relationship. On Broadway for the first time in 30 years (23 of which she spent as a member of British Parliament), the two-time Oscar winner shows no trace of rustiness in a characterization of such diamond-hard ferocity you dare not take your eyes off her. It's an almost ridiculous luxury that in Joe Mantello's crystalline production of this brittle but moving play about death and self-knowledge, two such accomplished actors as Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill become supplementary dividends.
Although they move around while they do it, there's almost no action, barely a plot, and (apart from some unusual dynamics involving Miriam Buether's tricky, clever set design) little that could be called a special effect. They just stand and deliver, or sometimes sit and deliver, and nearly two hours later you realize that you may not have blinked for minutes at a time while they did it.
Existential dread comes very well-upholstered in the Broadway revival of Edward Albee's dismaying and luxurious Three Tall Women. This is probably Albee's most personal play, a barbed-wire wreath laid at the grave of his adoptive mother, but he has filtered his experience through an absurdist lens. The play's vision of life aligns with Beckett's: darkness on one side, darkness on the other, some pain and disappointment in the middle. "That's it," one character says. "You start and then you stop. Don't be so soft."
Having its Broadway premiere nearly a quarter-century after its Off-Broadway debut, Three Tall Women is far from an easy evening of theater, despite being a swift, intermission-less hour-and-a-half. In the first act a woman in her 90s (played by Glenda Jackson and identified in the program only as "A,"), strong of will but failing of mind, is tended to by a woman in her 50s (Laurie Metcalf, "B") and visited, for vague legal reasons, by a woman in her 20s (Alison Pill, "C"). The text, by turns poignant and funny, can also be, like Jackson's character, prickly and distant.