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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Play Review: Three Tall Women (1991) and Finding Yourself by Looking Into the Past

Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women is a play that explores the generational differences of femininity in the form of three women. While these women are very different from one another, they do come from the same entity. The play revels largely in the concept of nostalgia and self-reflection. The play's dialogue exposes the various cultural and generational differences between these women as they come to terms with how they lived their lives and how it's affected them in their current states. However, it is because all of this is to an autobiographical sense that we're truly able to understand who 'A' is and how she came to be. And not only that, but it's also how she's able to understand herself. 
‘A’ shines in the work as a bitter, old, senile woman. Though her speech is riddled with the repetition of various phrases that tie into the harsh realities of the time in which she lived, they are not inorganic in nature as it is subtly revealed that A is struggling with Alzheimer’s. However, 'A' is looking back on her life in a way that is much more thorough than attempting to do so on her own. Both 'B' and 'C', the other two women in the play offer sympathy, slight revelations, and even comfort as they all touch on the darkest parts of 'A's memories, like her son leaving her for her affair and her blatant homophobia. All of this occurs even though they have various generational viewpoints on things like sexuality, love, race, and marriage, all of which have been experienced to the fullest by 'A'. However, whether her dated views are seething in “arrogant complacency [or] fearful disorientation” (New York Times, Brantley), they all have something to reveal about ‘A’, whether she would like them to or not. Her blunt and complacent homophobia and racism mark her as a product of the time in which she was born. The reason why she is this way is revealed later when 'C' mentions the way her mother groomed her to be this way because of how she grew up. 'A’s characterization, as well, as her mother's, is just one example of just how deeply ingrained these societal norms were. However, while ‘A’ reflects the older generation and how things were, ‘B’ and ‘C’s reactions these statements reveal a lot about them as well, especially in relation to how their views differ greatly from ‘A’s because of when they grew up.
Though ‘C’ is initially introduced as a fruitful young lawyer, ‘C’ also represents the youthfulness, innocence, and naivete of a young woman trying to navigate the real world for the first time at the age of 26. She’s curious, not only about ‘A’s past and how she came to be, but in the future as well as how she’ll avoid becoming like her. She’s impatient with ‘A’s traditionalist, intolerant views on race and sexuality and often challenges them, which is on par with that of a millennial mindset.  And even more so, she has a deep-seated fear of her own morality which directly reflects the same views that a lot of young millennials today have. Though Albee was probably not trying to reflect a modernist society in ‘C’s character, as times have changed vastly since the 60s when the play was initially released, Albee captures the universal essence of youth, naivete and the strive for individualism and most people that are ‘C’s age tend to have.
‘B’ stands in as not only ‘A’s caretaker, but as a referee between ‘C’ and ‘A’ as she simultaneously reprimands ‘A’ for her intolerance while calmly reminding ‘C’ of ‘A’s senility and of the fact that inevitably she is what ‘C’ is going to become. Though she’s not much different from both ‘A’ or ‘C’, she represents a calmer median between the two. She is much more mature, educated and accepting of the future than ‘C’ and she is more rational and coherent and less cynical than ‘A.' ‘B’ understands allows her to enjoy the good things that happen to her, without living in regret or sadness over what's to come or what has happened already.
Though all the characters' opinions differ when it comes to reflecting on different elements of their lives, a sizeable percentage of the play focuses on them coming to terms with what they will eventually become and what's already transpired. 'C' worries about the impending future as the doddery 'A'. While 'B' reminds her that the 'now' is the most important. 'A' reminds them both that, in the end, the now or the future won't matter because we'll only be clinging to the past to fully comprehend how we got where we are and how to accept it.

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