Tough-Minded Drama

Three Tall Women gets uncomfortably close to mortality.

Fortunately, Ed Baierlein's expert direction and his four actors are up to the challenge of Albee's script. Patty Mintz Figel plays the old woman with complete conviction, making her so palsied and appalling that it's hard to imagine how the actress puts herself through the experience night after night. This is what acting should be: giving yourself fully, your own fears, strengths, vulnerabilities and eccentricities to a role. There's something very evocative about the way Cody Alexander, as the nurse, moves on the stage, and about the grave shadows around her mouth. She's gentle but no sucker, and she brings a needed softness to the play. I've now seen Jennifer Anne Forsyth, who plays the woman at 26, twice. Last year, she gave a strong performance as the schoolgirl in the Shadow Theatre Company's My Children, My Africa. Though her role in Three Tall Women is very different, she brings to it the same toughness and intelligence I admired before. Tad Baierlein is ambiguous, slightly insinuating and interesting as the son.

I saw Three Tall Women in London several years ago, with Maggie Smith in the lead. I was very impressed with the acting, but I don't remember being as moved as I was at Germinal. I think the play profits from the intimacy and immediacy of the Germinal setting, as well as the audience's physical closeness to the actors. This is a production that should be seen precisely because of the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings it arouses.

Cody Alexander and Jennifer Anne Forsyth in Three 
Tall Women.
Cody Alexander and Jennifer Anne Forsyth in Three Tall Women.

"Did you like it?" I heard one woman ask another as they left the theater. There was a pause. "I don't know," her friend admitted. "It was almost too much truth at once."

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