Friday, May 30, 2008

New Profile: Edward Albee

Albee Seeing You
At 80, the iconic American playwright discusses the state of his art.
May 30, 2008

By Leonard Jacobs

There's no one in the American theatre like Edward Albee. As a playwright, he's known as much for the ambiguities in his plays as for what's revealed. Consider the hysterical pregnancy in 1962's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the symbolism of 1964's Tiny Alice, or why a terror-filled couple visits friends in 1966's A Delicate Balance, which won Albee the first of three Pulitzer Prizes.

That leaves 50 years of work to mull — playful lizards interacting with humans in 1975's Seascape; one woman split into three parts in 1991's Three Tall Women; the drama of a normal man falling in love with the titular creature in 2002's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?. And how could 1998's The Play About the Baby have been anything but the play about the baby?

As a man, there's no one quite like Albee either. His reputation for not suffering fools gladly is deserved. He has refused to explain his work as metaphor or allegory — a goat-loving man, he says, is a goat-loving man. Still, he's anything but cold. In conversation, he's witty, giving, charming, wise, warm, generous, curious, and magnetic. Albee has enjoyed a valedictory season on the East Coast, starting with Second Stage Theatre's production of Peter and Jerry, an update of his 1958 one-act The Zoo Story that shuttles the original play to Act 2 and adds an Act 1 zinger, showing Albee at the peak of his prowess. Next came the world premiere of Me, Myself & I, a cauterizing cartoon of the self, at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J. Back in New York, Albee directed a revival of two of his early one-acts, The Sandbox and The American Dream, to acclaim at Off-Broadway's Cherry Lane Theatre. And now the season ends with Occupant, Albee's penetrating 2001 play about artist Louise Nevelson, starring Oscar and Tony winner Mercedes Ruehl.

Back Stage: I went back to the 1960s and read interviews with you. It seemed you had a Bob Dylan-ish side — a toying-with-the-media, try-figuring-me-out tone.

Edward Albee: Oh, why not have fun with them? Once, I was interviewed and asked who my favorite living playwright was. I said me. When it was printed, it read, "When asked who he thought the finest living playwright was, Mr. Albee said himself." Was that bad mishearing on the part of the journalist or intentional? That's why I prefer live radio and television…. I like to keep journalists on their game.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

i clicked over to the full article on Back Stage, and that, sir, is a really good interview. well done.