Tiny Alice, Alan Schneider
Tiny Alice debuted on 29 December 1964 in a production directed by Alan Schneider at the Billy Rose Theatre in New York. The drama addresses the crisis of faith arising from the human tendency to represent the infinite and supreme with symbols that—as human constructs—are necessarily limited and inadequate. The action surrounds Julian, a Catholic lay brother who is sent by the Cardinal to negotiate with Miss Alice, a wealthy recluse who purportedly wishes to bestow an enormous sum on the Roman Catholic Church. Within her mansion, Julian finds, besides Alice herself, her lawyer, her butler, and a huge model of the mansion. He is then confronted by a series of bewildering circumstances and events, including Alice's initial appearance as a decrepit old woman and her subsequent revelation as a young woman disguised; a fire in the model mansion which exactly mirrors a simultaneous conflagration in the actual building; and his marriage to Miss Alice, presided over by the Cardinal. In the end, all the characters but Julian engage in a ritual surrounding the model. When Julian refuses to acknowledge the divinity of the miniature Alice within the model, he is shot by the Lawyer. As he slowly dies, he finally announces: "I accept thee, Alice … God, Alice … I accept thy will."
Tiny Alice initially met with critical consternation. John McCarten, for instance, was "bewildered" by the play, and Robert Brustein found it "meaningless" and censured Albee's "sham profundity." Subsequent commentators, while not necessarily judging Tiny Alice a complete success, have found a coherence and meaningfulness that the early reviewers had missed. These critics have focused on the play's exploration of the nature of reality and of the limits of human intellect and rationality when grappling with ideas of God and infinity, which by definition, exceed human reason. Leonard Casper has perhaps best summarized these approaches to the play in his observation that "Tiny Alice is a dramatization of all that must remain tantalizing beyond the mind's reach: all mysteries whose permanence we deny even as impressions of their permanence accumulate in our experience."
Howard Taubman (review date 30 December 1964)
SOURCE: A review of Tiny Alice, in The New York Times, 30 December 1964, p. 14.
[In the following review of the premiere of Tiny Alice at the Billy Rose Theater, Taubman declares that Albee's writing "abounds in moments touched with pungency and irony, " but he admits he was disappointed by the play's ending.]
The mark of a real writer is his refusal to stand still or repeat himself. In Tiny Alice Edward Albee has moved into the difficult, mysterious, ever tantalizing realm of faith.
In this new play, which opened last night at the Billy Rose Theater, Mr. Albee has attempted nothing less than a large, modern allegory on a theme that after almost two millenniums is essentially timeless. He is writing about the passion of a Christ-like figure, if not of Christ Himself.
Mr. Albee has not, unless I am mistaken after a first hearing, cast fresh light on this theme. But he has written with the literacy of a man who knows that the word itself can be charged with drama and with a gift for making a scene on a stage reverberate with subtle overtones.
Indeed, his command of sheer theater grows steadily, and it has been richly and imaginatively abetted by Alan Schneider's staging. Even if you find Mr. Albee's subject and treatment too enigmatic, Tiny...
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Philip Roth (essay date 1965)
SOURCE: "The Play that Dare Not Speak Its Name," in The New York Review of Books, Vol. IV, No. 2, 25 February 1965, p. 4.
[In the following review of the published version of Tiny Alice, Roth charges that the play is "obviously a sham " that attempts to obscure its "true subject. " It is, he contends, "a homosexual daydream in which the celibate male is tempted and seduced by the overpowering female."]
In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee attempted to move beyond the narrowness of his personal interests by having his characters speculate from time to time upon the metaphysical and historical implications of their predicament. In Tiny Alice, the metaphysics, such as they are, appear to be Albee's deepest concern—and no doubt about it, he wants his concerns to seem deep. But this new play isn't about the problems of faith-and-doubt or appearance-and-reality, any more than Virginia Woolf was about "the Decline of the West"; mostly, when the characters in Tiny Alice suffer over epistomology, they are really suffering the consequences of human deceit, subterfuge, and hypocrisy. Albee sees in human nature very much what Maupassant did, only he wants to talk about it like Plato. In this way he not only distorts his observations, but subverts his own powers, for it is not the...
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Ballew, Leighton M. "Who's Afraid of Tiny Alice? "The Georgia Review XX, No. 3 (Fall 1966): 292-99.
Suggests that Tiny Alice "may take place entirely in the mind of the lay brother, Julian."
Campbell, Mary Elizabeth. "The Statement of Edward Albee's Tiny Alice. "Papers on Language & Literature IV, No. 1 (Winter 1968): 85-100.
Structural analysis that argues that Tiny Alice propounds the thesis that humanity's numerous scientific achievements "so potently free, ease, and expand his life that a man may tend, whether wittingly or no, to center his energies and hopes in these concerns, to such a degree that the spiritual aspects of his nature may dwindle away and his humanity be engulfed in materialism."
Clurman, Harold. A review of Tiny Alice. The Nation 200, No. 3 (18 January 1965): 65.
Negative evaluation that asserts: "The surface or fabric of Tiny Alice is specious."
Curry, Ryder Hector, and Michael Porte. "The Surprising Unconscious of Edward Albee."Drama Survey 7, Nos. 1-2 (Winter 1968-69): 59-68.
Maintains that Tiny Alice is "an exemplification of the workings of the collective unconscious," a "working out in dramatic form of [Carl Gustav] Jung."
Dukore, Bernard F. "Tiny Albee." Dram a Survey 5, No. 1 (Spring 1966): 60-6.
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