Edward Albee Three Tall Women
Award: Pulitzer Prize for Drama and New York Drama Critics Circle Award
(Full name Edward Franklin Albee III) Born in 1928, Albee is an American playwright, scriptwriter, poet, and short story writer.
For further information on Albee's life and works, see CLC, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 25, and 53.
Three Tall Women (1991), Albee's third work to win a Pulitzer Prize, begins with a meeting between an elderly woman in her nineties known as A, her middle-aged care-taker B, and a young lawyer named C who has come to help A settle her affairs. As the three women interact, each becomes aware of and impatient with the others' shortcomings: the narrow-minded A, lamenting her advancing years, is in poor health and feels betrayed by family members; B is frustrated by her employer's numerous demands; and C, somewhat naive and temperamental, is shocked by what she considers the older women's vulgarity, prejudices, and lack of tolerance. The first act ends as A suffers a stroke, and in subsequent scenes Albee departs from a strictly linear plot, having all three characters appear as various manifestations of A at different times during her life. Through this use of multiple perspectives, Albee addresses various stereotypes associated with youth, middle age, and old age, and meditates on such issues as the evolving nature of personal identity, the emotional and intellectual ramifications of the aging process, and the relationship between past, present, and future. Familial ties are also central to Three Tall Women, which focuses in part on A's turbulent relationship with her homosexual son, and the play, described by Albee as a form of "exorcism," is considered largely autobiographical—the character A was based on Albee's mother and the relationship between parent and playwright mirrors that of A and her son. Critical reaction to Three Tall Women has been generally positive. Although commentators have consistently identified C as the weakest character in the play, they have lauded A and B as well-defined portraits and praised Albee's focus on universal concerns. Many critics have additionally asserted that Three Tall Women is the most successful work Albee has written in years, rivalling such classics as The Zoo Story (1959), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), and Seascape (1975); they also note that due to its autobiographical content Three Tall Women offers invaluable insights into Albee's life and career. John Lahr observed: "Far from being an act of revenge or special pleading, the play is a wary act of recon-ciliation, whose pathos and poetry are a testament to the bond, however attenuated, between child and parent. Three Tall Women bears witness to the son's sad wish to be loved, but with this liberating difference: the child is now finally in control of the parent's destiny, instead of the parent's being in control of the child's."