Three Tall Women an engrossing voyeuristic journey at Custom Made

Michaela Greeley as A; Terry Bamberger as B; Katharine Otis  as C; Nathan Brown as The Boy in Custom Made’s production of  Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women

Three Tall Women: Drama by Edward Albee. Directed by Katja Rivera. Custom Made Theatre Company, Gough Street Playouse,1620 Gough St. (at Bush), San Francisco, CA 94109. Gough Street Playhouse is attached to the historic Trinity Episcopal Church. 510-207-5774 or  November 11 – December 7, 2014

Three Tall Women an engrossing voyeuristic journey at Custom Made Rating: ★★★★☆

Bay Area theatre-goers know that Custom Made Theatre Company does not shy away from producing difficult plays and in this reviewer’s experience they occasionally fall short of excellence. That is not so with their latest mounting of Three Tall Women, Edward Albee’s demanding Pulitzer Prize winning play. It is well cast and well directed with a couple of minor caveats and will keep your attention for the two hours (not including the intermission) it plays out on the stage.

The play is semi-autobiographical with an intriguing construction alone worthy of accolades. Albee has brought to life the dead past and in doing so exorcised his own demons. The “three tall women” are reincarnations of the same character, his adoptive mother A (superb Michaela Greeley ) is his dying senile, forgetful  at age 92, having conversation with herself  B at middle age (great understated performance by Terry Bamberger) and her 27 year old self C (Katherine Otis).

Remembrances of things past are often faulty. Each recollects, with intensity and occasionally with unexpected spontaneous humor, the events that shaped the personality of each to become what they were at the three stages of their lives. Albee, the adoptive son, has created a non-speaking part for himself as The Boy (Nathan Brown) who shows up to see the dying/dead A. After a confrontation with B, he had ‘deserted” the family at age 21 not returning until the impending death of A.

Act one is basically a monolog for the infirm A with B and C as sounding boards for her faulty yet cogent memory. You need not be familiar with Albee’s life to appreciate the turmoil within the family. Albee’s superlative play construction and use of dialog completely fills in the three stages of the women’s lives and brings to life his one-eyed adoptive womanizing father whose proclivities have been disastrous for B.

Act two takes place with A dead in bed as the three women continue their verbal interaction. At this point, Albee fills in the development of B and C with A as the sounding board and occasionally the voice of reason. At times B and C seek approval from the audience and one might wonder if it is a directorial conceit or written into the script. No matter, either way it works.  The only caveat might be the over-acting of Katherine Otis that could be attributed to the directing that slightly throws the play off balance.

Stewart Lyle’s fine scenic design and Scarlett Kellum’s costume design are compliment by Hamilton Guillén’s varied lighting design that fades in and out reflecting shifts in time also between fact and fancy. Three Tall Women is another winner for Custom Made.

Cast: Michaela Greeley as A; Terry Bamberger B; Katharine Otis  as C; Nathan Brown as The Boy.

Staff/Crew: Katja Rivera, Director; Melissa Costa, Stage Manager/Props Design; Stewart Lyle, Scenic Design; Hamilton Guillén, Lighting Design; Scarlett Kellum, Costume Design; Liz Ryder, Sound Design.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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