photos: Cathy Jones

A Genuine Classic “THREE TALL WOMEN”

Missing Event Data

PLAYERS BY THE SEA THEATRE REVIEW
A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM

Jacksonville Beach’s Players by the Sea, with support from sponsors Scott and Nancy McLucas, has opened a revival of “Three Tall Women,” the 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning play by the late Edward Albee (1928 – 2016). The opening was on April 28, and the production will remain on stage until May 13, 2017. Visit playersbythesea.org or call 249-0289 for reservations and additional information.

This is only one of the many great plays written by Edward Albee in a career which included “The Zoo Story” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (which you will be able to see on Players’ stage in April, 2018. Albee visited Jacksonville in March, 2001 to speak at the Southeastern Theatre Conference held at the Adams Mark Hotel in downtown Jacksonville. He was 73 at the time and talked about his then current play, “The Play About the Baby.”

“Three Tall Women” is biographical. Albee was adopted as an infant by a wealthy couple from Larchmont, New York. He had an uncomfortable relationship with his adoptive parents, who were reportedly cold and distant, and didn’t approve of his career aspirations, or his homosexuality. After his father’s death, he and his stepmother were reunited after being estranged for twenty years. While they didn’t become close, they did see each other at intervals afterward. Albee wrote the play, which is about her, shortly after her death in 1989.

Photo by Cathy Jones-9062The play examines three stages of the main character’s life. Act One begins in the bedroom of a woman in her nineties, brilliantly portrayed by the amazing Gayle Featheringill (identified as A), who reprises a role she played on the same stage sixteen years ago. She is widowed, rich, demanding, and descending into senility. Her conversation is laced with accusations, childishness, confusion, and stories about her past. A caregiver (Claire Cimino, identified as B) and a lawyer (Kasi Walters, identified as C) are there to help her, and listen to her ramblings until the woman is unexpectedly is silenced by a massive stroke.

Act Two takes place in the same bedroom, where a mannequin lying in bed represents the continued presence of A. The three actresses return to the stage, all elegantly dressed. We learn that they now represent the same woman at different ages. Ms. Featheringill as A is in her nineties, Ms. Cimino as B is fifty-two, and Ms. Walters as C is twenty-six. They relate their memories of good times and bad, which includes their relationships with men, and sexual issues and encounters.

Photo by Cathy Jones-A final character who clearly represents Albee appears in Act Two. Son, portrayed by Craig Wickless, enters, sits by the mannequin facing away from the audience, and leaves after a prolonged period of silence. He appears sad; is he grieving? Regretful? Forgiving? The ambiguity adds weight to the ending.

The three ladies were superb in their roles. Gayle Featheringill has portrayed a number of older women excellently. They include Carrie Watts in “The Trip to the Bountiful,” Bubbie in “Crossing Delancey,” and Quiser in “Steel Magnolias.” She has been in involved in all phases of Players by the Sea’s growth since its founding in 1966.

While Claire Cimino lists only backstage experience in her program bio in “Fences,” “Memphis,” and “All The Way,” she has obviously been onstage at some point in the past, as her performance, especially in Act Two, was outstanding.

Kasi Walters has appeared in number of interesting roles at Players, in productions which have included “Hand to God,” “A Behanding in Spokane,” and “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment.” Ms. Walters received a Pelican Award in 2012 for Best Actress as Agnes in “Bug.”

Photo by Cathy Jones-9178Joe Schwarz, Executive Director of Players by the Sea, directed this show. He has been at the theatre’s helm for fifteen years, wears many hats, and enjoys putting on a director’s cap from time to time. And he does it all remarkably well.

Mr. Schwarz and Production Manager Jereme Raickett created the ornate bedroom with a king-sized bed with charcoal sheets and pillow cases, as well the dramatic lighting. The elegant period costumes were eye-catching; thanks go to Costumer Amy Hancock.

Additional crew members included Peggy McGuinness (Stage Manager), Natasha Anderson (Light Broad Operator), and Sarah Stansel (Stage Crew).

The play is an emotional one and a true classic. Don’t miss it.

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.