Archiv der Kategorie: Edward Albee

When the World Is Closing In

Edward Albee: The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London (Director: Ian Rickson)

By Sascha Krieger

„Notes toward a definition of tragedy“. This is the subtitle Edward Albee gave his 2002 Tony and Pulitzer winning play The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? What he was clearly interested in here is how the Aristotelian idea of tragedy can relate to and be transported into our enlightened, free, individualistic and democratic present days? A great man’s downfall at the hands of fate due to transgressions he might not even be in control of – how is that even conceivable today? He wasn’t the first to ask these questions in the modern age: Tennessee Williams‘ plays often test tragedic structure – interestingly often with female characters in the „hero’s“ role – Arthur Miller conceived Death of a Salesman as a modern tragedy, replacing the „great“ with the „ordinary“ man. Albee’s focus is different: he looks at what a „transgression“ triggering the mechanics of tragedy might be today and he asks society whether it has completely shade its taboo-enhancing, punishing nature yet. The answers he comes up with in The Goat are rather terrifying.

Theatre Royal Haymarket (Image: Sascha Krieger)

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When Darkness Comes

Edward Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Harold Pinter Theatre, London (Director: James MacDonald)

By Sascha Krieger

There seems to be a sense out there in what we call the „Western world“ of decline, of having our best days behind us, a desire to find our way back to a golden age when things were clearer, better, less, confusing, more black and white. In the United States, for example, a hollow reality TV character just got elected President on the stunningly meaningless promise to „Make America Great Again“. When, one might ask, was America „great“ and what was its greatness? Many point back to the 1950s, an idyllic yet modern, quiet yet industrial America unperturbed by social unrest, fresh off winning a world war, self-confident and free from self-doubt. Sure, there was McCarthy, moral oppression and a deeply entrenched patriarchal society but aren’t those minor flaws – or perhaps none at all? Edward Albee’s perennial audience favourite Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is set against this America’s backdrop. A well-respected couple, he a college professor, she the university President’s daughter, inviting a new teacher and his wife into their home. What could go wrong? The answer should be pretty well-known by now: everything. For, beyond the shiny surface lies a yawning abyss, a black nothingness of fear and desolation. The black hole of a world on the brink of distinction.

The Harold Pinter Theatre (Image: Sascha Krieger)

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Beautiful Ghosts

Edward Albee: A Delicate Balance, John Golden Theatre, New York City (Director: Pam MacKinnon)

By Sascha Krieger

Edward Albee has always been a playwright hard to pin down. On the surface, his best and most popular work such as Who’s Afraid of Viginia Woolf seems like a mixture of Noel Coward-like social comedy and Bergmanesque marital tragedy. Yet there is a reason why some critics have placed him alongside Harold Pinter as part of the second generation of absurdist writers. With the latter she shares the sense of irrational threat , with the older writers such as Beckett or Ionesco a view of the universe assentially empty and meaningless. No other writer has succeeded in marrying the estrangement that these very disparate writers brought to modern drama to a highly realistic style. Where Pinter chooses the subtle horror of almost Hitchcock-like thriller, Albee remains within the conventions of marital drama deriving from Henrik Ibsen.

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