Anyone with a Netflix account knows that Glenda Jackson is a force of nature: All you have to do is stream classic British films like Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) or the cult hit Marat/Sade. (I’m also partial to her pirate number in The Muppet Show.) Now you can see that power firsthand—and live. After three decades and a stint in the British Parliament, the actress has returned to Broadway to portray A, the dying rich woman who rages in the shifting center of Edward Albee’s darkly exhilarating Three Tall Women. From an 81-year-old performer, I’ve rarely seen this much punch, zest, and utter vitality.
Joe Mantello directs the sumptuous and piercing Broadway debut of this 1994 piece, partnering Jackson with the quicksilver sad-clown expertise of Laurie Metcalf and the cool, coltishness of Alison Pill.
They are the lanky ladies of the title, appearing in the first act as the dying, bigoted A (Jackson); her dogged caregiver, B (Metcalf); and a young lawyer, C (Pill), trying to wrestle A’s accounts into order. In the second act, the three reappear in floral prints, now manifestations of the bedridden A at three stages of life: youth, middle age, and later years. Together, they explore Albee’s central mystery: How do we become the person we are (or appear to be)?
Whether or not that existential puzzle can be solved, one thing is sure: Jackson is unforgettable. Her A is by turns pathetic, savage, and coyly girlish. She snarls, bites, and spits those elegant strings of Albee acid across the stage and generally gives her costars a run for their money. For a play about death, Jackson imbues each moment with incandescent life. She will not go gentle into that you-know-what.
Why You Should Go: Edward Albee’s play about the stages of a woman’s life makes it to Broadway and provides Glenda Jackson with the perfect role.
Three Tall Women
252 West 45th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), Midtown
Through June 24