Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Three Tall Women

Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill
Review by Dean Yannias

Lacey Bingham, Laura Norman, and Tilcara Webb
Photo by V J Liberatori
If you've ever wondered what inspired Edward Albee to create the character of Martha and the plot point of the son who wasn't really a son in 1962's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you might find a clue in 1991's Three Tall Women. Albee acknowledged that the later play was based on the wealthy woman who adopted him as an infant and then turned against him when it became evident that he was gay. He was her son, and yet he wasn't.

The mother in this play remains nameless. When we meet her in act one, she's a querulous old bitch with a moderate degree of dementia, the kind that makes some people obstreperous and belligerent. Her body is failing as much as her mind is, so she needs a caretaker, who in this case is a middle-aged woman. She is incapable of managing her finances, so the law firm that handles her affairs has sent a young woman to her house to help her straighten things out. These are, in one sense, the three women of the title.

The old woman rambles on about her past, which she remembers better than the present. She didn't start out rich, but married money, had horses, had an affair, etc. She often repeats herself, as people with dementia do. Albee presents her decrepitude and emotional volatility realistically, but I find the first act too talky by about 20%. Sure, some old people do go on and on. In real life it gets boring. Do we have to sit through it in a theater too?

Stick around for the the second act, though. Albee, perhaps inspired by the Trinity (but probably not), presents us with three persons who are nevertheless one. I won't say anything more, except that it's a gimmick, yes, but a brilliant one. It's also a trenchant examination of the concept of the self: Are we the same person throughout a lifetime, or are we different people at different stages of our lives?

In a production of a play that is all talk and minimal plot, so much depends on the performances and direction. At Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill, Frederick Ponzlov has cast and directed four actors who manage to put this play across. Lacey Bingham owns the first act as the irritating nonstop-talking old woman, and although she is nowhere near the age of the character, plays the part as if she were. Laura Norman, as the caretaker, is a fine performer who is new to Albuquerque stages and I hope she will do more theater here. Tilcara Webb, still a student at the University of New Mexico, has a promising career ahead of her. Juan Mendoza Solis shows up near the end in a silent role, but his face expresses everything that his voice doesn't.

The impressive set is by Dean Squibb and Nina Dorrance (who also provides wonderful props), the excellent lighting is by Cody Kellen, and the fine costumes are by Rhonda Backinoff with assistance from Carolyn Hogan.

The play could benefit by being cut a bit, but I'm sure that Albee's estate would not allow that. All in all, this is a fine production that Mr. Ponzlov and cast and crew have crafted for us.

Three Tall Women, Through March 10, 2019, at Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill, 3011 Monte Vista Blvd NE (just north of Central), Albuquerque NM. 2019. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets from $10 to $20. For information and tickets, visit