Goodman Theatre celebrates Edward Albee

At 75, Edward Albee’s lifetime of work reflects his unique perspective and an examination of the foibles of humanity. Probably his best-known work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, staged in 1962 and later filmed with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, represents the gut-wrenching drama occurring in the lives of someone who could live next door.

The Goodman has staged Albee’s latest work, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, and The Play About the Play on the Mainstage. A series of his one-act plays, actually some of his best work, were presented in the Owen Theatre.

The Zoo Story, directed by Lynn Bernatowicz, tells of a chance meeting between a transient, Jerry, and Peter, staid businessman. The two personalities clash with devastating consequences. Jerry’s elaborate tale of an encounter with the landlady’s fierce dog becomes the catalyst for Peter’s ultimate demise. The Death of Bessie Smith, set in a Memphis hospital in 1937, shows racism’s brutality. Directed by Chuck Smith, it features Kati Brazda as the Nurse. A comment heard during the performance was, “She makes Nurse Rachett look like Mother Teresa.” The aristocracy of the South is crumbling, and its fall crushes everyone in the vicinity. Refusing admittance to Bessie Smith, “The Empress of the Blues” dies as the result of a car crash.

Box, The Sandbox and Finding the Sun have a connecting element—sand. Box, written in 1968, analyzes the human predicament. An off-stage voice is the only sound in a brief monologue. A middle-aged couple bring Grandma (Mary Seibel) to the beach to die. Mommy (Rondi Reed) of the Steppenwolf Ensemble and Daddy (Ted Hoerl) wait patiently on a bench for Grandma to “pass away.” She does not do so graciously. Buried in the sand, her only solace is a beautiful young man flexing his muscles.

Gary Wingert, friend and actor of local renown (Pec Playhouse), plays Henden in Finding the Sun. Four couples arrive at the beach and settle on chairs to take the sun. Their intertwined relationship, explained in monologue, reveals their sexual and family ties. Albee’s own family and his long-time friendship with William Flanagan are the inspiration for these characters. Three Tall Women is the story of his mother, and Edmee (Patricia Kane) dominates Fergus (James Immekus) as only a single mother can. Her conversation with Gertrude Caitlin Hart) delves into topics forbidden.

The Edward Albee Festival opened a promising season at the Goodman. Following the traditional A Christmas Carol, the world premiere of The Light in the Piazza opens in January, followed by Regina Taylor’s Crowns. Crowns is the celebration of black women and their church hats combined with the glorious sounds of Gospel music.

For further information, call the box office at (312) 443-5151.

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