Three Tall Women
|Three Tall Women|
|Written by||Edward Albee|
|Characters||a woman in her 90s
a woman in her 50s
a woman in her 20s
|Date premiered||June 14, 1991|
|Place premiered||Vienna's English Theatre
- A: She is a very old woman in her 90s. She is thin, autocratic, proud, and wealthy. She also has a mild case of Alzheimer's disease.
- B: B is a 52-year-old version of A, to whom she is the hired caretaker. She is markedly cynical about life. Although she doesn't enjoy working for A, she learns much from her.
- C: C is a 26-year-old version of B. She is present on behalf of A's law firm, because A has neglected paperwork, payments, and such. She has all of youth's common self-assurance.
- The Boy: The son of the three women, he does not play a speaking role but is the subject of much discussion among them. A falling-out between the son and his mother(s) is the cause of much of A and B's despair.
The protagonist, a compelling woman more than 90 years old, reflects on her life with a mixture of shame, pleasure, regret, and satisfaction. She recalls the fun of her childhood and her early marriage, when she felt an overwhelming optimism. She also bitterly recalls negative events that caused her regret: her husband’s affairs and death, and the estrangement of her gay son.
The woman’s relationship with her son is the clearest indication that Albee was working through some troubled memories of his own in Three Tall Women. Raised by conservative New England adoptive parents who disapproved of his homosexuality, he left home at 18 like the son in this play. Albee admitted to The Economist that the play "was a kind of exorcism. And I didn’t end up any more fond of the woman after I finished it than when I started."
Besides exorcising personal demons, Albee regained the respect of New York theater critics with the play. Many of them had despaired that the playwright, who showed such promise during the 1960s and 1970s, had dried up creatively. In fact, Three Tall Women was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1994, as well as the Drama Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel, and Outer Critics Circle awards for best play.
The play opens with the three major characters together in A's bedroom. Throughout the scene, A does most of the talking, frequently reminiscing and telling stories about her life. B humors her, while helping her do everyday things that have become difficult to do alone (sitting down, going to the bathroom, getting into bed). C, while getting a rare word in edgewise about the duties she's there to accomplish, is most often deterred by A's slipping into long-winded storytelling. C often challenges issue A's contradictory and nonsensical statements; but she is discouraged by B, who is clearly used to A and her habits. Act 1 ends when A, in the middle of one of her stories, has a stroke.
The play picks up with a mannequin of A lying in a bed. A, B, and C are no longer the separate entities of Act 1, but represent A at different times in her life (their ages corresponding to those of A, B, and C in Act 1). Since A, B, and C in this act are all very coherent (unlike the senile A of Act 1), the audience gets a much clearer insight into the woman's past.
At one point, the son comes in to sit by the mannequin. A and B (who are invisible to him) are not happy to see him, because of the rift between them. C (also unseen by the son) is none the wiser, because she is from a period in the woman's life before her marriage. He says nothing throughout, and leaves before the end of the play.
The play ends with A, B, and C debating about the happiest moment in their life. A has the last word, saying, "That's the happiest moment. When it's all done. When we stop. When we can stop."
Three Tall Women had its world premiere at the English Theatre, Vienna, Austria in June 1991. The play was directed by Albee, with a cast that included Myra Carter as the Old Woman, Kathleen Butler as the Middle-Aged Woman, Cynthia Bassham as the Young Woman, and Howard Nightingall as the Boy.
The play opened Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre on January 27, 1994, and closed on March 13, 1994. Directed by Lawrence Sacharow, the cast featured Jordan Baker (as "C"), Myra Carter (as "A"), Michael Rhodes (as the Boy), and Marian Seldes (as "B"). The production moved to the Promenade Theatre on April 13, 1994, where it ran to August 26, 1995.
The play premiered in the West End at the Wyndhams Theatre in October 1994, directed by Anthony Page and featuring Maggie Smith (Elder Tall Woman), Frances de la Tour (Middle Tall Woman), Anastasia Hille (Younger Tall Woman), and John Ireland (the Boy).
Awards and nominations
- 1994 Evening Standard Award for Best Play and Best Actress (Maggie Smith)
- 1994 Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play
- 1994 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play
- 1994 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play
- 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
- Myra Carter received the Lucille Lortel Award, Obie Award, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best (Outstanding) Actress.
- Wise, Michael Z. "Viennese Not Waltzing Over Albee's 'Three Tall Women' : Stage: The disaffected American playwright is premiering his latest work far from home because Broadway 'is our national disgrace.'" Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1991
- Albee, Edward. "Script", Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1994, ISBN 0822214202, p. 3
- "'Three Tall Women' Vineyard" lortel.org, accessed November 6, 2015
- "'Three Tall Women' Promenade" lortel.org, accessed November 6, 2015
- Brantley, Ben. "Review/Theater: Three Tall Women; Edward Albee Conjures Up Three Ages of Woman" New York Times, February 14, 1994
- "'Three Tall Women' 1994" theatricalia.com, accessed November 6, 2015
- Taylor, Paul. "REVIEW:Theatre Three Tall Women Wyndham's Theatre, London" The Independent, October 22, 2011
- Cox, Gordon (May 19, 2017). "Glenda Jackson to Return to Broadway in ‘Three Tall Women’". Variety. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
- Evening Standard Awards Retrieved on 8 October 2009
- "Albee's 'Tall Women' Wins Award in London" New York Times, November 28, 1994
- "Pulitzer Prize for Drama" pulitzer.org, accessed November 6, 2015