Richard, Karen, and Bruce and I saw this Edward Albee play on Broadway on 12/6. It’s a play from 1966, it won the Pulitzer Prize that year. It’s about a well-to-do suburban married couple. The wife’s sister lives with them, and their daughter moves in with them after ending her fourth marriage. And their neighbors and best friends also move in - - they can’t go back to their house because they are afraid. This is never explained, and even more strange, never questioned.
I’m a big fan of Albee’s *Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?* and am always eager to see an Albee play onstage. This one had a starry cast: Glenn Close and John Lithgow as the married couple, Lindsay Duncan as the sister, Martha Plimpton as the daughter, and Bob Balaban and Claire Higgins as the neighbors.
The play has its problems, but it’s a thrill to be in the presence of such brilliant writing, and the actors who can deliver it. In a funny way it’s a play of manners - - the married couple are paralyzed by their good manners. They are kind and generous to the point of great frustration.
The biggest joy of the production was seeing these great stage actors really chowing down on a strong play. The play makes big demands on them, and they completely rise to the challenge. Close and Lithgow were wonderful as the married couple. I don’t believe I’d ever seen either of them onstage before, and they live up to their reputations. Close has such a beautiful speaking voice, it was a pleasure to listen to her. Lithgow played his part with great conviction, even his somewhat unconvincing meltdown in the last act.
I love Lindsay Duncan (she’s getting my Best Cameo, Female award in my Top Five this year, for her brief role in the movie *Birdman*) and she did a great job in a sort of wonky part. The sister is a drunk and is the truth-teller in the room. I wasn’t too amused by her playing the accordion in the second act, but I bet Elaine Stritch tore the joint apart in this scene in the 1997 production. Martha Plimpton was a little one-note as the daughter, but that’s as much Albee’s fault as hers. It’s not a very well-written part. Still, I think she could have found some more colors to play.
Bob Balaban and Claire Higgins were chilling and hilarious as the neighbors. Balaban was playing a variation of the part he’s played in so many movies over the years, so in that way it was perfect casting. I’d never seen Higgins in anything and she was a real find. Her confrontation with the daughter in Act II was maybe the highlight of the show.
We decided that the audience should win a Tony for Most Disruptive. They were so loud and fidgety and infuriating, none of us had seen anything like it. Karen said, “If you want to make a lot of noise, you should go see a musical.” She asked me to write a list of instructions for the audience, and I’d like your help with it. Please email me, if you like, a few pet peeves for audience behavior. Note that we’re talking about live performances - - movie audiences are their own subgenre, I have different expectations for that crowd. Thank you in advance.