Three Tall Women

ACC reaches deep to mine understanding from Albee's profound conversation about aging and dying

One life, three angles, (l-r): Gricelda Silva, 
Peg Patrone, Katheryn Smaczniak
One life, three angles, (l-r): Gricelda Silva, Peg Patrone, Katheryn Smaczniak (Photo courtesy of Shelby Brammer)

Three Tall Women

Austin Community College Gallery Theatre, 1212 Rio Grande, 223-3245
www.austincc.edu/drama
Through June 24
Running time: 2 hr.

Written by Edward Albee after his mother's death, Three Tall Women begins with an old woman complaining of her ailments. With her is a nurse in her middle years and a young woman sent from the attorney's office. The old woman's memory and body are failing – with frequent and urgent trips to the bathroom punctuating her faulty reminiscences. The nurse deals with it with as much patience as she can muster. The youngest woman is wide-eyed, taking in this unpleasant evidence of mortality.

In time, the conversation shifts abruptly. The old woman suffers a stroke, and what then follows is a trio on the nature of aging and dying from three women who embody three radically different periods from a single person's life. Albee's writing, in what's generally acknowledged to be one of his finest plays, is profound in its ability to simultaneously capture not only different ages but also the different realities and beliefs that exist across time in the same person.

In the Austin Community College Department of Drama's production, the second act is more engaging – once the whole concept becomes clear. The first act brings a necessary understanding of the old woman's history, but the second allows for a more direct conversation about what it is to age, how we change over the years, and if it's even possible for a young person to truly know her own thoughts and beliefs, untested as they are by time.

Given that the play is not only titled Three Tall Women but also contains references in the dialogue to how tall the women are, and to how short their husband was in comparison director Marcus McQuirter has made a peculiar choice in casting Gricelda Silva as the youngest woman. Though a very fine actor who gives a solid performance here, Silva is quite possibly the shortest adult actor currently working in Austin. It's surprising that McQuirter couldn't find someone equally capable but taller (I'd settle for anywhere over five feet) to play a 26-year-old woman.

Performing Albee is difficult in part because the dialogue is almost but not exactly realistic, and discovering a good balance between playing the words and the ideas behind them is challenging. One gets the sense from the production that no decision was made about how exactly to take on the language, and the cast is left hanging without a firm commitment to a single vision.

At the same time, ACC's presentation of Three Tall Women reaches deep to bring out what understanding it can. Actors Peg Patrone, Katheryn Smaczniak, and Silva play with and against one another well. Laura Del Villaggio's costume designs subtly complement the characters as their stories unfold. What emerges from the performance is a complicated resolution at the end of a contradictory life, and the unsettling suggestion that neither blame nor love is absolute.

READ MORE
More Arts Reviews
Salvage Vanguard Theater's <i>Thr3e Zisters</i>
Salvage Vanguard Theater's Thr3e Zisters
This zombified take on Chekhov gets reanimated right when we need women who will bite back at the patriarchy

Robert Faires, Feb. 17, 2017

Ballet Austin's <i>Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty & the Beast</i>
Ballet Austin's Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty & the Beast
In its striking concept and execution, Stephen Mills' take on the fairy tale was his most fully realized story ballet since Hamlet

Robert Faires, Feb. 17, 2017

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Zach Theatre's <i>The Great Society</i>
Zach Theatre's The Great Society
Robert Schenkkan's smart script and remarkable ensemble work make this a powerful look at LBJ's White House years

Feb. 3, 2017

Austin Playhouse's <i>Bloomsday</i>
Austin Playhouse’s Bloomsday
Steven Dietz's rumination on a great love lost lacks some of the vivid passion it needs in this staging

Jan. 20, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Three Tall Women, Austin Community College Department of Drama, Marcus McQuirter, Peg Patrone, Katheryn Smaczniak, Gricelda Silva, Laura Del Villaggio

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)