Three Tall Women

By Edward Albee

three tall women by Albee at court theatre
Three Tall Women

Directed by Charles Newell

At Court Theatre, Chicago

Powerful text and  three outstanding performances make for a flawless performance

Edward Albee’s 3rd Pulitzer, Three Tall Women (1994) was written after the death of his adoptive mother making it Albee’s most personal work.  Filled with wicked humor, stinging retorts, and keen observations, Three Tall Women is a most truthful look at the arc of a life from the point-of-view of three generation – the youth, age 26 (C) (Maura Kidwell); in middle age women, age 52 (B) Mary Beth Fisher; and at age 92 on her death bed (A) Lois Markle.  This play is a tour de force for all three women as each had several tellingly poignant moments to dominate the stage.

three tall women by Albee at court theatre

In act one, we meet Women A now being bedridden and suffering from dementia. Women B is her constant helper adapt at getting her through the basics of life. Women C is the young lawyer sent to help straighten out Women A’s financial affairs. Lois Markle is marvelous as the often forgetful old lady who speaks frequently reminisces and tells stories about her life as a younger woman. As A tells long-winded stories, C points out contradictory and nonsensical statements made by A that B seems to ignore. This act is Lois Markle’s showcase. The act ends with A suffering a stroke.

three tall women by Albee at court theatre

Act two opens with a mannequin in bed with an oxygen mask  as a result of the stroke.  A, B, and C are now three generations of the same person, each representing that women at 26 or 52 or 92. They speak and ask each other questions as C (Maura Kidwell’s time to shine) details the early moments in the women’s life. B (Mary Beth Fisher) has several emotional moments  midway through as she both warns C and A as to events that will shape their lives.

The interaction among the three goes into deeper detail into the life presented. C constantly tells B and A that she will not become ‘like that.’ They laugh and continue.  The son (Joel Gross) arrives to the bedside of A. B and A are upset at his arrival due to the trauma when he left home.

The play ends after A, B, and C debate what is the happiest moment in their life.  A has the final word:  “That’s the happiest moment. When it’s all done. When we stop. When we can stop.”

Three Tall Women is Albee’s exorcism  from the demeans of his adoptive mother and it is a provocative look at the inevitability of death. The truth lies in our desire to reconcile with our loved ones before we die.

Three Tall Women, I believe, is Albee’s finest play and Charlie Newell’s Court Theatre production is the strongest, most emotionally truthful production I’ve seen yet. This is marvelous theatre – an imaginative script, deftly staging, with three superb performances – Who could ask for anything more?

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-753-4472, www.courttheatre.org, tickets $40 – $60, Wednesday & Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through February 13, 2011