Two-time Academy Award winner Glenda Jackson returns to Broadway after a 30-year absence to star alongside Tony and three-time Emmy Award winner Laurie Metcalf and Tony Award nominee Alison Pill in the Broadway premiere of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Three Tall Women. Ms. Jackson has previously appeared on Broadway four times and received four Tony Award nominations. Could this be her fifth?... We think so!
Although the play runs without an intermission, it is comprised of two distinctively different Acts which, in turn, revolve around two distinctly different concepts. Consequently, Three Tall Women never feels wearisome and may certainly catch unknowing audience members off guard. The first Act lulls the audience into a false sense of security at this seemingly conventional play centered around a 92-year old woman with ailing health. The ravages of age have rendered her a prisoner in a luxurious boudoir prison cell, whilst the two other women of the play act as her carer and as a young lawyer come to visit regarding some financial matters. Struggling with her memory, the old woman attempts to recant stories from her life about her deceased husband, estranged son and even sexual escapades, occasionally breaking down into tears at her own frustration with herself. She is physically handicapped with her arm in a sling and must be aided to the bathroom. It is a brutally honest and sadly all too well known portrait of a woman nearing the end of her long life.
However, in the second Act, we are met by the three women, now portraying the same lady, but at three different stages of her life - now accompanied by her naïve, inquisitive 26-year old self and her cynical, thick-skinned 52-year olf self. Each discuss their own outlooks on life and their own persona, both with each other and with the audience by breaking the fourth wall. The older women teach and warn the younger what is to come, whilst the younger denies them and promises to never end up like them. Destiny, of course, will not be swayed.
Edward Albee writes a wondrous dialogue that forces us to reflect on our own mortality and ask how we are spending our time on this planet, whilst these three formidable women (listed in the playbill simply as A, B and C) are brought to stunning life by three highly accomplished actresses in Laurie Metcalf, Alison Pill and the force of nature that is Glenda Jackson. Perfectly cast, supremely directed by Joe Mantello, and with an ingenious scene change midway through by Miriam Buether to boot, Three Tall Women ticks every box and, simply put, engenders theatre at its finest.
(Photos by Brigitte Lacombe)