(SOLO; HASTY PUDDING THEATER; 350 SEATS; $35 TOP)
CAMBRIDGE Mass. An American Repertory Theater presentation of a play in two acts excerpted from the works of Edward Albee, created by Glyn O'Malley and Stephen Rowe. Directed by O'Malley. Lighting, O'Malley, Kimberly Scott; stage manager, Chris Sinclair-Rowe. ART artistic director, Robert Brustein. Opened, reviewed March 25, 1998. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.
With: Stephen Rowe.
More a whetting of the appetite for productions of Edward Albee's lesser-known plays than a completely satisfying entity in itself, Glyn O'Malley and Stephen Rowe's "Albee's Men" is nevertheless another welcome reminder of just how beautifully nuanced and blazingly theatrical is the playwright's writing. It's also very well acted by Rowe, who brings an entirely apt laid-back intensity to its 11 excerpts from eight Albee plays, even if he is not the totally stage-dominating personality a one-man show would seem to call for. It would have more impact if it were either played without an intermission or if its slight second part were beefed up.
The plays from which the 10 male characters presented were taken, with Albee's blessing and input, range from 1958 to 1993. They are, "Fragments -- A Concerto Grosso," "Finding the Sun," "The Zoo Story," "The Man Who Had Three Arms," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," "Counting the Ways," "Marriage Play," and "A Delicate Balance." With a nod to Shakespeare's "seven ages of man," the characters progress from teenage to old age, Rowe performing on a basically bare stage with a minimum of props and minor costume changes.
Rowe plays directly to the audience most of the time, creating a procession of quite different characters as Albee investigates the futility and wonder of life, including the meaning of love, in a way that has a pervasive sadness lit by flashes of savagery. We laugh lest we cry. Yet the most moving aspect of the show is that, ultimately, we seem to be seeing and listening to (listening being the operative word with this remarkable playwright) Albee the man himself speaking to us. In a very real sense he has become part of this country's conscience.
The selection of material contains certain neatly chosen balances, the first part, for instance, including an attempted dog killing story, the second a cat killing piece. The overwhelming power of sexual obsession is also explored. Throughout, Albee's writing is so elegant and expressive that the attempts at audience participation are more embarrassing than enlightening.
Given that Albee's female characters are often more vivid than his male characters, it's not surprising that "Albee's Women" is apparently in the works.