Theater: 'A Delicate Balance'
CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — Actors Theatre Playhouse will pay tribute to American Playwright Edward Albee with a Saturday night staged reading of one of his most highly acclaimed dramas, "A Delicate Balance." It premiered in 1966 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the first of three he received for his work. Albee passed away last fall. Performances at the playhouse are on this Saturday, and on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Edward Albee's play may be almost 50 years old, but it has all the edge-of-the-seat excitement and timeliness of a new work for the American Theatre. "Both harsh and heart wrenching, this is a needling play that's of its time and yet still surging with post-modern vitality. One has the experience of staring down a spiritual and emotional void that is disturbingly relatable," said the Hollywood Reporter.
The uneasy existence of upper-middle-class suburbanites Agnes and Tobias and their permanent house guest, Agnes' witty alcoholic sister Claire, is disrupted by the sudden appearance of lifelong family friends Harry and Edna, fellow empty nesters with free-floating anxiety, who ask to stay with them to escape an unnamed terror. They soon are followed by Agnes and Tobias's bitter 36-year-old daughter Julia, who returns home following the collapse of her fourth marriage.
Variety said, "And here we have the plot development that tells us we're not at some conventional domestic drama that will resolve itself tragically (or even comically), but the kind of existential mystery that can never be resolved, the kind of brilliantly constructed if ultimately unfathomable play that only Edward Albee can get away with writing. Albee, who also wrote `Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?', is brilliant at this sort of existential fear. As he put it when writing about this play, 'It's about the rigidity and ultimate paralysis which afflicts those who settle in too easily, waking up one day to discover that all the choices they have avoided no longer give them any freedom of choice.' "
"Edward Albee writes as though he'd filed every typewriter key down to a fine point and replaced the space bar with a scalpel," one critic wrote when the play premiered in 1966. It's an apt description of this ominous domestic drama in which all the characters seem to be terrified, as though teetering on the brink of some menacing threat. As Agnes puts it at one point, "It's one of those days where everything's happening underneath."
Director Wendy Almeida said she finds the play funny as well as horrifying as it deals with failed lives and poisonous relationships. "This play has sung to me since I first read it in my 20s," she said. "One of the questions I ask myself now is how universal are the dynamics of this family? I suspect they are more universal than we'd like to admit." She also notes that "we're living in a time when the `existential fear' Albee mentions has become more pervasive than at any time since the '60s," making for interesting audience interaction.
Featured in the staged reading are Ray Mahoney, Carrie Kidd, Nancy Stephens, Katrina Spenceman, Dan Patterson and Marilyn Tullgren. Reservations at 877-666-1855.
"A Delicate Balance" stage reading will take place at the Actors Theatre Playhouse, corner of Brook and Main. Reservations can be made at 877-666-1855. For more information, visit atplayhouse.org.
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