WHAT “Three Tall Women”
WHERE Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St.
INFO From $47; 212-239-6200, telecharge.com
BOTTOM LINE Glenda Jackson lives up to the legend in an Albee classic.
“I can’t remember what I can’t remember,” the stooped woman in the rumpled robe rages to her caretaker and the young lawyer there to straighten out her messy finances.
In “Three Tall Women,” the 1991 Edward Albee play finally making its Broadway debut at the Golden Theatre this week, the women are identified very simply: A, B and C.
But, oh, such women director Joe Mantello has brought together. Glenda Jackson, making a welcome return to the New York stage after serving in Parliament for 23 years, is A, the 92-year-old (admitting only to 91) grande dame hovering on senility, lashing out at the other two at every opportunity. Laurie Metcalf, hard to miss these days with her recent Oscar nomination for “Lady Bird” and her return to TV in “Roseanne,” is B, the put-upon caretaker, and Tony nominee Alison Pill (“The Lieutenant of Inishmore”) is C, the lawyer.
In the setup that’s Act 1, A agonizes about her forgetfulness while rambling on about husbands, lovers and her estranged son, while B struggles to get her to the bathroom on time and C seems lost just trying to keep up. Jackson is so convincing in her doddering — the hesitant shuffles, the broken speech, the flailing arms — you worry for the well-being of the 81-year-old actress.
But no, there she is in Act 2, vibrant in a lovely lavender gown (costumes by Ann Roth) with no trace of those infirmities. All is changed, as suggested by a slight shift in Miriam Buether’s elegant bedroom set that now barely reveals A lying comatose in bed. Gradually it becomes clear that all are portraying A at various stages of life. In finely crafted performances, each of them — Jackson wry in the regrets of someone whose life nears its end; Metcalf, precise and mildly abrasive in her middle-aged recollections; Pill bubbling with the hopeful energy of youth — take turns addressing the audience. All appear to be searching for the moment when they were happiest, but that memory seems elusive.
Understandable, because this is by all counts a memory play, one that in interviews Albee, a Montauk resident who died in 2016, often related to his troubled relationship with his adoptive mother. “An exorcism,” he called the play, which won him his third Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Best, though, to put all that aside, and simply lose yourself in this revealing, poignant story from one of America’s most revered playwrights — and, more importantly, to marvel at wondrous performances from three actresses at the top of their game.