Three Tall Women

Walnut Street Theatre, Ninth and Walnut Sts., through April 25, 215-574-3550, ext. 4

Act One. Three tall women talking. No. One tall woman talking, two tall women listening. Elderly tall woman, senile, demanding, rich, 92, talking. Two younger tall women, listening, sarcastic, carping. Middle-aged tall woman, caretaker, 52, frowzy, smiles and carps. Young tall woman, lawyer, 26, in suit, just carps.

Old tall woman tries to remember, can't remember. Pearls. Old tall woman talks, younger tall women listen, comment, grimace, smile sarcastically. Old tall woman talks about "him." Husband? Lover? Father? Son? Sometimes one, sometimes another. Riding. Money and power. Jews, wops, niggers. Sex with her husband, erections, a diamond bracelet and a blow job that wasn't. Stroke.

Be patient. Don't walk out. Premise changes.

Act Two. One tall woman, three tall actors. Same woman. Cream, purple, lavender dresses (Muriel Stockdale). All three wear pearls. Young tall woman, 26, life ahead of her, sees in the others what she will become, what she will know, what she doesn't want to know. Sex, courtship, virginity, erections, sex. Older tall woman, 52, betrayals, betraying, anticipation and forgetting. Oldest tall woman, 92, widowhood, betrayal. Unforgiving, beyond forgiving. Illness and death.

Edward Albee's comeback play. Pulitzer Prize 1994. Well done at Walnut. Bedroom set (James Noone) doesn't overpower. Grace Gonglewski, youngest tall woman. Sarcastic in Act One, radiant in Act Two. "I will not become either of you." "You'll learn," the oldest tall woman tells her. Alice White, older tall woman. Not enough backbone in Act One. Worldly and wise in Act Two.

M'el Dowd, oldest tall woman. Dominates the stage, the play. In Act One, terror of memories, terror of loss of memories. Not vacant like Myra Carter in 1994 premiere, in which Marian Seldes dominated as middle-aged tall woman. Terror. Terrifying. Acerbic wisdom in Act Two. "You eat into yourself." Defiance, not resignation.

Malcolm Black. Director. Some cheesy choices. Music at act openings, dappled light in Act Two monologues (Jerold Forsyth). Too much interplay between oldest tall woman and wayward son (Jeffrey Coon). But effective.

Albee. Be patient. Script repays attention. Performances worth seeing.