When I interviewed Albee in his art-filled Tribeca loft in 2009, I entered with some trepidation.
He was infamous for his prickliness and sharp tongue, and I had written an admiring but tough assessment of his oeuvre a few years earlier for the Village Voice when his play “The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? My conclusion was that Albee’s theatrical instincts were far superior to his philosophical abilities, and that the symbolic architecture of his plays was often a distraction from the animating dramatic wound caused by the collision of cruelty and kindness — or what Jerry from “The Zoo Story” refers to as “the teaching emotion.” Here is where, I argued, the heart — and genius — of his plays lie.
It attempts to make him face up to the human condition as it really is, to free him from illusions that are bound to cause constant maladjustment and disappointment. For the dignity of man lies in his ability to face reality in all its senselessness; to accept it freely, without fear, without illusions — and to laugh at it. A few years later he would crystallize the themes in “A Delicate Balance,” his drama about a prosperous American family beset with existential panic after a years of repression, booze and bad faith.
“A Delicate Balance” was the first of his three plays to win the Pulitzer Prize; “Seascape” was the second and then, after a long gap in which nearly everyone had written him off, “Three Tall Women” was honored, lending momentum to his flourishing late career.
As a playwright who was both heralded as the Second Coming and derided as the Anti-Christ, he knew all too well the dangers of paying too much attention to outside verdicts.
Critical Essays On Edward Albee Windows Vista Problem Solving
This stance was as much a carapace for artistic survival as it was a principled position against those forces arrayed against the individual talent.“The playwright, along with any writer, composer, painter in this society, has got to have a terribly private view of his own value, of his own work,” Albee told the Paris Review while still in his early prime. He’s got to watch out for fads, for what might be called the critical aesthetics.”Reputations, he knew, were built up only to be torn down: “A lot of playwrights become confused by this and they start doing imitations of what they’ve done before, or they try to do something entirely different, in which case they get accused by the same critics of not doing what they used to do so well.” SIGN UP for the free Essential Arts & Culture newsletter »Theater’s connection to the marketplace is part of its glamour but Albee recognized that it was also one of its traps.
”) and a half-dozen richly provocative dramas that will continue to rise and fall with critical fashions.
In the right hands, the many baffling other works may yet yield up their reluctant magic.
But his appreciation for vision playfully transmuted into objective form was palpable.
For Albee a play wasn’t a representation of life but life itself, an addition dreamed up by a writer with time and talent to turn mental image into creation.