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Three Tall Women

Iconoclasm has always come easy to Edward Albee. Beginning with The Zoo Story in 1959, Albee established a theatrical form that parallels the absurdist drama of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, yet in place of the cool, metaphysical questions of the Europeans, his work is laced with down to earth conflicts.

As evidenced by Germinal Stage Denver's current production of Three Tall Women, Albee can take space-time and expand it into more dimensions than String Theory ever thought possible, without losing the seemingly rational atmosphere of our every-day world. This approach meshes seamlessly with director Ed Baierlein's hyper-realistic style, which uses precise, layered, and cross-hatched elocutionary techniques interwoven with naturalistic staging.

At first, we enter what seems to be a routine deathbed scene involving three women: the eldest ("A," age 92) tended by her nurse ("B," age 52) and badgered by her attorney ("C," age 26). Careening between avaricious outbursts over money matters, lurid memories of courtship and infidelity, stultifying takes on marriage and child-rearing, and frantic trips to the commode, Patty Mintz Figel, as "A"—her hands wavering, her eyes distant—paints a broad, colorful portrait of an intractable old woman who has lived a rich, yet unnecessarily prejudicial and painful life.

Her ever-patience nurse tolerates her tantrums and translates her vague, memory-impaired allusions for the benefit of the attorney. Cody Alexander's "B" is thoughtful and warm, conveying a relaxed humor that cut's through "A's" vituperative persona.

The young "C" watches this dance. She is self-assured and confidence—a modern professional woman—organized and detail-oriented; she takes notes in her Day-timer. As "C," Jennifer Anne Forsyth possesses both the naïveté and arrogance of youth, bearing thinly-veiled disdain for her elderly client and snobbish bemusement toward the working-class nurse.

Then the worm turns, and in Act II, after "A" has had a stroke, Albee replenishes her voice by turning the play from three women representing different generations and classes, to the same woman at different stages of her own life. Reflecting on the past, absorbed in the present, skeptical of the future, she argues with herself, pointing out how age and experience alters the most adamant opinions.

The playwright, having examined his own mother from every possible angle, now arrives in the guise of the Son and brings focus to this complex psychological examination: "C" asks, "How did I change?" and "B" speaks for her tripartite personality when she states, "She ('C') wants to know how she turned into me, and I ('B') wonder how I changed into her ('A')."

To the degree that we are capable of knowing ourselves—from our first inklings of adulthood to the final rattles of death—and representing this awareness through art, Albee has laid bare the process in Three Tall Women. Germinal Stage Denver's production fully realizes that vision. It runs through December 14th at Germinal Stage Denver. 303-455-7108.

 

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