Three Tall Women is a Frank Trip into the Past

When the lights dimmed, and the show opened, there was no preamble. It was all of a sudden, slow yet immediate. Like Three Tall Women itself, Twelfth Night Productions’ staging was slight, unobtrusive, or at least, it was at first. There is an intrinsic gentleness to the show, ironic in its intended excoriation of playwright Edward Albee’s mother. Yet it is nevertheless immediate, humane, searching, impressively frank. Twelfth Night Productions and director Richard Buckley have impressively captured this tone, and so the show almost glides through its audience.

A single setting, rendered immaculately in the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, shows the bedroom of A. The three women- A, B, and C- are nondescript in name only. One is a caretaker, the next a lawyer, and the last, the oldest, the one both are at the service of. There is little in the way of immediate plot detail- its an exploration, first of three generations of women, and then, in the second act, three generations worth of time for one woman. This act is interrupted by the son of the protagonist, who silently stews, uncertain, in the background. His mother never tried to understand him, perhaps. His silence reflects how she sees him, or perhaps how he sees her? It’s Albee’s work, after all, seeking to understand his mother. Knowing this, is the play authoring him, or is he authoring it? There are no easy answers.

It’s an excellent cast. I doubt there is a performance in Seattle at this moment any more profound than that of Patricia Haines-Ainsworth as A, especially in the first act where she practically withers away over the course of the hour. Jen Anderson and Megan Twamley fill out the cast as B and C, respectively. The former is weary, but hardened by time. The latter is energetic, selfish, positive about the future. The three balance each other very well, both in script and performance. Patrick Ostander plays The Boy, remorseful yet dismissed.

Three Tall Women glides by, examining legacies of womanhood, expectation, and familial trauma. Buckley and his crew have acquitted themselves perfectly to its realization.

Three Tall Women is currently running at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. For tickets and more information, go to https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4111260.

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