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Three Tall Women Review
So, here’s a tip for whomever is cast as “A” in the next revival of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1994 play “Three Tall Women”: Play King Lear first. At the very least, that strategy seems to be working for the great Glenda Jackson, who has made a long overdue return to Broadway in Joe Mantello’s stunning production of this dark comedy at the Golden Theatre. Her titanic, mesmerizing and often terrifying performance as a sometimes angry, sometimes befuddled wealthy 90-something bears more than a slight resemblance to the Shakespearean monarch she recently played in London. And the result is that I think the name on the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play can be inscribed right this second.

Intriguingly, at least for the first act, there even seems to be a “fool” for “A”; her 50-something caretaker, “B,” played with an artful mixture of deadpan humor, intense exasperation and occasional warmth by the extraordinary Laurie Metcalf. In fact, there’s two fools (in another sense of the word) once we add in “C,” a humorless, naďve legal assistant (a very fine Alison Pill), who has come to try to straighten out A’s very messy financial affairs and finds her elderly client and her constant digressions completely bewildering.

Aside from the superb acting, the play’s first section derives most of its fascination in trying to decipher why Albee has put this triad together – wandering about A’s luxurious bedroom (gorgeously designed by Miriam Buether) and often engaging in repetitive and banal (but sometimes witty) dialogue. Yes, A’s reminiscences of a well-lived and well-heeled life -- complete with a short, funny and sometimes adulterous husband (who finds a unique way of presenting his wife with a new bracelet) – can be quite entertaining. But to those audiences unfamiliar with the play (which ran over a year Off-Broadway), all the talk can seem initially slight.

Well, they’d be right to expect that there’s a great revelation ahead (so stop reading if you need to be surprised): A, B and C are actually the same woman at different ages. (Or perhaps it’s only what A, who has had a stroke, is imagining!) Naturally, A can’t remember everything about her past, but it’s great fun watching the regal Jackson (gorgeously costumed by Ann Roth in majestic lilac) delight in recalling what she can, reveling in her few happy memories and practically taunting her younger counterparts about the indignities to come.

Metcalf comes to close dominating the second half of the play as her B is revealed to be a bitter if painfully self-award middle-aged woman, especially angry about being her abandoned by teenaged son. (Albee, who felt rejected by parents for being gay, left home at age 18, and the play has long been regarded as an act of either catharsis or revenge on the playwright’s part.) And Pill proves to be very effective at limning the dewy-eyed 26-year-old forced to face that her happiest times may well be behind her.

Or is it to come? “That's the happiest moment. When it's all done. When we stop. When we can stop,” says A at the work’s conclusion. Perhaps that is true of life or death (at least for some), but there is no real happiness for us when we have to stop watching the incredible Jackson and her co-stars in this riveting work.

By Brian Scott Lipton

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Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf, Alison Pill

Open/Close Dates
Opening 3/29/2018
Closing 6/24/2018

Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 3/1/2018
Closing Open-ended

Box Office

Theatre Info
John Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036