(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Tiny Alice was first staged at the Billy Rose Theater on December 29, 1964, and it ran for 167 performances. It starred Sir John Gielgud, Irene Worth, William Hutt, Eric Berry, and John Heffernan; Alan Schneider directed. Tiny Alice provoked a fury of critical responses at its premiere, ranging from “brilliant” to “sophomoric.” Most critics, as well as the performers involved, confessed to not understanding the play and called it a metaphysical muddle. One reviewer dismissed it as a Faustian drama written by a highly endowed college student. Subsequent revivals of the work have aroused the same acrimonious response.

Albee, in introductory remarks to the published text in 1965, kept the controversy alive by writing:It has been the expressed hope of many that I would write a preface to the published text of Tiny Alice, clarifying obscure points in the play—explaining my intention, in other words. I have decided against creating such a guide because I find—after reading the play over—that I share the view of even more people: that the play is quite clear.

What is clear is that Albee did not include Tiny Alice as an important or representative work when he published Selected Plays of Edward Albee in 1987.

Despite its confusing allegorical structure, Tiny Alice has more of a plot coherence than most of Albee’s other plays. Miss Alice is the world’s richest woman; she will donate two billion dollars to the Catholic Church if the cardinal’s secretary, lay Brother Julian, will be...

(The entire section is 645 words.)