Critical Essays On Edward Albee

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Fearing that I was going to be scolded for my erroneous insights, I found myself devoting my introductory pleasantries to an adorable part-Abyssinian cat.

Before I knew it, I was on the floor making friends with this flirtatious feline to Albee’s delight. Albee was a great animal lover — a sadness washed into his eyes when he told me as I was leaving about a cat that fell down the elevator shaft and died — and his plays are a virtual menagerie, populated with pets, barnyard creatures and, of course, those lizards from “Seascape.” I asked him about the recurring figure of a lost or imperiled child in his plays — a topic I had hoped might launch us on a psychoanalytic stroll into his difficult childhood as the adopted son of a wealthy but evidently chilly suburban New York couple.

Albee was wary of these classifications, seeing them as artistic straitjackets.

He knew the “absurdist” label papered over the manifold differences of writers who hadn’t really all that much in common.

David Mamet once described two of New York’s leading drama critics as the syphilis and gonorrhea of the American theater.

Edward Albee, whose death at age 88 on Friday marked the end of his reign as the greatest living American playwright, chiseled his own choice invectives for reviewers over his topsy-turvy career.

These dramas might seem artificial, as “All Over,” a deathbed vigil played out as a concert of aggrieved voices, can seem.

But there was nothing at all unnatural about director Emily Mann’s superb 2002 revival.

The cast included an astringently sublime and ultimately heartbreaking Rosemary Harris and a marvelously cantankerous Myra Carter, two of Albee’s most agile interpreters whose secret was treating every moment as though it were as strange and familiar as the workaday world.

At an awards panel lunch, Marian Seldes, another brilliant Albee player, once explained in a discussion of an iconoclastic work that a playwright creates a universe and gives that universe a language all its own.


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