Rhys Lovell directs an elegant, thought-provoking production of Edward Albee’s "Three Tall Women" at Heartland Theatre Company. It’s a show in which there’s not much action and yet, by the end, it feels as if everything has happened.
The set-up, on paper, seems contrived, but it all makes sense on stage. This is thanks to Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning writing and incredible performances from the actors playing the three tall women (called A, B and C): Lynda Rettick, Devon Lovell and Emilia Dvorak.
In the first act, they are three different women; in the second act, they are iterations of the same woman at three different ages. The entire show takes place in an upscale bedroom, dominated by A’s four-poster bed (scenic and lighting design by Rob Fulton).
A (Rettick) is 91, cantankerous, and struggling with some dementia. She does most of the talking in Act 1.
B (Lovell) portrays her 52-year-old acerbic but understanding caretaker.
C (Dvorak) is a 26-year-old smart-mouthed lawyer who, despite herself, gets drawn into A’s long rambling, stream-of-consciousness stories about her life.
A slips around, as if on ice, reiterating certain phrases, shading them with different meanings over and over, and careening between a wealthy, privileged certitude about life and something resembling terror when she is disoriented.
“I can’t remember what I can’t remember,” she says.
Act Two is a conversation between A, B, and C. Death is topic number one. Also on the table is when life’s happiest moments come. A and B imply they are already past.
C is appalled at the choices made by her future selves, particularly when they involve marrying a philandering husband and becoming estranged from a gay son (played by Daniel Job, who doesn’t speak).
“I’ll never become you,” C says to them, her voice tinged with anger and terror.
But of course, she does.
This is a riveting production of a play that invites speculation. What would you say to your past or future selves?
Sound designer Kieran Pereira contributes a moving, contemplative sound score, all the better to capture the opportunities, adventures and poignant regrets that pulse through this woman’s long life.