Albee: He, Himself, and Him

 

Albee returns to his roots, pure 1950s/60s absurdism. He plays with the connection between words and identity – if words can be given so many different meanings, then how can we have any security in our identities that can only be captured in words? The play never gets that weighty but it is truly grounded in that tradition. Albee is doing what he does so well: playing games with figures of speech, using outlandish premises to show us that we’re not too far the outlandish. The play has the feel of a parlor comedy – a twin brother denies the existence of his brother; the mother cannot tell the siblings apart; and she is 28 years into a relationship with a doctor that started shortly after the twin’s father abandoned his family. The doctor/mother sequences are very Didi and Gogo.

At times, Albee seems to be imitating Beckett, but that may be intentional, as a sort of “wink and a nod” play on the father of the form. Elizabeth Ashely and Brian Murray play the mother and doctor and they are WONDERFUL. Really a delight (as they pop out of their metaphorical trash cans). And the portrayal of the two twins(not really twins, but very close matches – what a nightmare for the casting director generally work effectively as the convention upon which the action is based (sort of like the lizards in Seascape). His more recent plays seem to have relied on the collision between real people in real environments with the outlandish premise (the middle class man in love with a goat; the man with three arms). This play lives in a fairly abstract environment much more reminiscent of American Dream (and this production reinforces that feeling).

But the joy of the evening is Albee’s mastery of language – simple words and phrases turned hilariously inside out (I laughed constantly throughout the evening).

I have found that much of the critical response to play comes to similar conclusions about the play’s qualities but the reviewers see those qualities as the play’s weaknesses, i.e., Albee just doing his thing again with complex and domineering mothers and absent fathers. Some have noted the return to absurdist roots but similarly fault Albee for being, well, Albee.
The play has its faults — the angry twin, who functions as both character and narrator, never seems to be “in the scenes” with the other characters (significantly, in the plot of the play, he IS trying to escape those scenes) and Albee has not found a satisfactory conclusion for the play and stoops to simply having his narrator explain that it’s time for a curtain call. But the play is so rich with the convergence of language, thought, and style that those faults should be forgiven (or at least tolerated). The play is not, as some have portrayed it, a veiled self-reflection of an aging playwright — Me, Myself, and I is really about Us, Them, and We and the challenges they pose for I.

 Posted by at 10:13 pm

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