Playwright Edward Albee wrote many plays and won the Pulitzer Prize for three of them. When I asked him about these honors, he replied, “You never know why you get them, and why you didn’t.” Anyone who sees Three Tall Women from 1994, now elegantly revived at the Golden Theater, will understand why this three-hander did. Much has been made of the actress Glenda Jackson in the formidable role of “A,” and Laurie Metcalf in the bridge role of “B,” and Alison Pill as the 26-year-old “C.” Line up the Tony Awards now. Albee’s words, both abstract and specific circle around an emblematic woman’s history, her wiles, excesses, entitlements, and deprivations. Deeply funny, just hear “A” recounting how her husband appeared naked to her with a diamond bracelet hanging on his stiff “pee pee” aimed at her face. “I just couldn’t do that,” she cries proclaiming herself a “good girl,” astonished that she is revealing this intimacy. “Oh keep the bracelet,” she remembers him saying, as the audience howls.
In Act 2, a boy appears. “A” exuded joy, that after leaving home for 20 years, he returned to HER when she had a stroke. Perhaps this silent young man images Albee himself, the gay boy who went away, now seen through the reflection of a mirror. This production plays to the biographical detail. Its overall excellence is achieved in Joe Mantello’s direction, Ann Roth’s costumes, particularly the lavender palette in the second part, and Miriam Buether’s scenic design, a beautifully furnished posh bedroom, ultimately reflecting the entire audience as if to say, no one is exempt from these life lessons.