Written by Edward Albee
Running time 1 hour 40 minutes
Price range $65 - $75
Stop! Read the "Storyline" paragraph below before you do anything else. OK - now that you know how unorthodox the subject matter of the play is, it is time to say that it is fabulously produced, Sally Field unleashes a torrent of emotion that is fascinating to watch and Edward Albee has constructed a piece of strong emotional impact and notable craftsmanship. It is also time to say that Bill Irwin's performance is nowhere near the quality of Field's.
Storyline: This intense drama presents a happily married and professionally successful man who has to tell his deep dark secret to someone, as he can no longer live with the pressure of keeping the fact to himself. He confides in his best friend, but that friend passes the word to the man's wife. Now the entire family must deal with the fact that not only has he has been practicing bestiality with a goat, he believes himself to be in love with her.
Albee was quite right to structure this play in one act. Giving the audience a chance to sit and think about what is going on or to go out to the lobby and discuss it would be fatal to the acceptance of the premise. As it is, he gives no quarter, no pause and no chance to do anything but experience the emotional impact of those events on man, wife, son and friend. Director David Esbjornson pushes the pacing on an accelerating track, which matches Albee's structure. This play doesn't have a dramatic arc so much as a steeply inclined ramp.
Of course, that puts a lot of weight on the cast's shoulders. The current cast teams Sally Field of Norma Rae, Places in the Heart and E.R. with Bill Irwin of Fool Moon. Irwin carries the heaviest burden and isn't fully successful because of the strange quirks he exhibits early in the short play. Yes, his character is supposed to be distracted by the heavy burden of his secret and his certain knowledge of the pain its revelation would cause for the wife he loves. But Irwin plays it as so distracted as to be on the verge of being spacey and that makes it hard to understand where he gets the strength he summons to hold his own in the no-holds barred confrontation with her. The wife's progression from blissful to betrayed is much easier to follow and accept. Field's ability to unleash raw emotion is nothing short of astonishing and her performance, while marred by a few strange individual line readings, is fully convincing.
Jeffrey Carlson who graduated from Juilliard last year is very good as the seventeen-year-old son but he looks like he just got out of college, not high school. Albee's subplot about the son being openly gay and the father's acceptance of his "preference" seems a questionable tactic to raise issues. Are we to go out for coffee after the show and discuss whether acceptance of bestiality is similar to acceptance of homosexuality? Albee might be able to keep the audience from comparing notes during the show by dispensing with an intermission. He can't avoid post-show discussions and that may well be where this play falters.
Written by Edward Albee. Directed by David Esbjornson. Design: John Arnone (set) Elizabeth Hope Clancy (costumes) Kenneth Posner (lights) Mark Bennett (sound). Cast: Sally Field, Bill Irwin, Jeffrey Carlson, Stephen Rowe.
Potomac Stages Broadway
252 West 45th Street