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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Sunday, May 22, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Exquisite dialogue meets first-class acting

“Three Tall Women”… worth seeing for the performances alone. Photo: Jane Duong

Theatre / “Three Tall Women”, written by Edward Albee and directed by Sophie Benassi. At Chaika Theatre, ACT Hub, until May 21. Reviewed by JOE WOODWARD.

AS a vehicle for three strong and powerful women actors of different ages, “Three Tall Women” is the perfect choice for revealing the potential and talent of Chaika Theatre.

Certainly, Lainie Hart, Karen Vickery and Natasha Vickery provided first-class, engaging and challenging performances with nuanced character details that sustained and compelled attention over the duration of a long play.

With Albee’s exquisite dialogue and provision of virtuoso moments, “Three Tall Women” paved a dreamlike pathway for a substantial work; in part due to the attention to detail by the play’s director Sophie Benassi! However, for all Albee’s plaudits for this work, it is a plotless play providing exposition replacing the traditional character arc. 

“Three Tall Women” evokes moments of memory and self-processing that is at once brutal and sometimes funny. Life’s confusions and misfires entrap ambition and desire into emotional and physical straitjackets of one’s own choosing. Wealth is no comforter in this paradigm. Albee provides opportunities for actors to ground themselves in this gritty and unforgiving universe and to evoke the terror of ageing. It is mostly subtle and mostly a combination of petty moments gathered in a lifetime of inertia gravitating towards some discomforting horror.

There is much written about Albee’s life and influences that provided context for this work. Seeing the play might spark some research into this as there are some recurring themes in his output. The coldness of the characters is in contrast to the empathy expressed towards “Grandma” in his first play “The Sand Box” written more than 30 years earlier. As with “Three Tall Women” it featured death; though in that work it was death as relief from an absurd, uncaring world. 

In “Three Tall Women” Albee tacks on a banal conclusion that seems at odds with the thesis of the play and this provided a real challenge for the actors to be convincing. The old woman, prattling on about distorted moments of her life in the overly-long first act, seems to have no real insight into her actions and relationships. This makes her confused wordiness compelling in many ways. The dexterity of Karen Vickery’s performance made for a very highly tuned anxiety and sheer anger from the old woman. However, one wonders, then, where the play’s ending comes from! 

“Three Tall Women” creates strong and memorable verbal and visual imagery that is likely to linger within one’s dreams and imagination. The parts are probably stronger than the whole edifice. It is certainly worth seeing for the performances alone


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