Three Tall Women
Three Tall Women premiered on 14 June 1991 at the English Theatre in Vienna, in a production directed by Albee. It debuted in America on 27 January 1994 at the Vineyard Theatre, New York. Douglas Aibel was the Artistic Director and Jon Nakagawa was the Managing director for this first U.S. staging. The play begins with a meeting between an elderly woman in her nineties known as A, her middle-aged caretaker 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' shortcom ings. The first act ends as A suffers a stroke, and in subse quent scenes Albee departs from a strictly realistic plot, having all three characters appear as various manifestations of A at different times during her life. The play concerns stereotypes and familial ties, and is considered largely autobiographical; in his introduction to the published version of the play, Albee has stated that the character A was based on his mother, and the relationship between parent and playwright mirrors that of A and her homosexual son.
Several reviewers have accorded Three Tall Women qualified approval, noting several shortcomings in the play; nevertheless, it has earned Albee his third Pulitzer Prize. Ben Brantley has found the play obvious but has admired its "affecting emotional core." Stefan Kanfer has labeled the play "elegant" but has judged it a decidedly "minor effort." Other critics, including John Simon, Robert Brustein, and John Lahr, have been enthusiastic in their appreciation of the drama. Lahr has called Three Tall Women "a wary act of reconciliation, whose pathos and poetry are a testament to the bond, however attenuated, between child and parent." A recurring theme in commentary on the play has been its relation to Albee's other works. Tim Appelo has noted several similarities between Three Tall Women and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. These two works, he has declared, "seem parallel, sister dramas reaching out to each other across the intervening wastes and oases of Albee's career." Marian Faux, too, has seen similarities between the two plays and has detected a characteristic concern with family conflict. William Hutchings, however, has observed affinities between Three Tall Women and works by Samuel Beckett, judging Albee's the lesser effort. August W. Staub has placed the play in a wider context, assessing it in terms of classical Greek views of life and art. He has concluded that Three Tall Women "is at once very ancient and completely contemporary, so contemporary, in fact, that it might well be called one of the great summation moments of 20th century theatre."