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NY1 Theater Review: 'A Delicate Balance'

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Stars of stage and screen, Glenn Close and John Lithgow, headline the new Broadway a revival of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "A Delicate Balance." Time Out New York’s David Cote filed the following review.

Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” requires a delicate balance. This arch domestic drama, which baffled many critics in 1966, mustn’t be too glib or too earnest. Like its characters, it teeters between a kind of morbid stasis and moral decay. Luckily, the latest Broadway revival achieves the right equilibrium.

Glenn Close and John Lithgow play Agnes and Tobias, an older married couple in a well-appointed suburban house they share with Claire, Agnes’s alcoholic sister, played by Lindsay Duncan.

Claire provides the comic relief and flashes of booze-soaked honesty, which Agnes coolly deflects and Tobias notes in silence. The plot is set in motion by two arrivals: first Agnes and Tobias’s married friends Harry and Edna show up unannounced, fleeing some nameless terror. Next is their spoiled, unhappy daughter, Julia, who has separated from her fourth husband and returns to the family bosom.

What happens is a showdown of sorts, a test of Tobias and Agnes’ responsibility to their family versus their moral obligations to society—or is there no difference between them? Pam MacKinnon directs this solid revival with a keen ear for the curling, teasing rhythms of Albee’s ornate lines, and the performances are top-notch, including a perfectly deadpan Bob Balaban and a sinister Claire Higgins as the unwelcome guests.

Martha Plimpton finds sympathetic notes in the difficult, shrill role of Julia and Close and Lithgow handle their tricky speeches with grace and nuance. If Close is a touch too frosty, she’s always thawed by Lithgow’s warmth.

"A Delicate Balance" reminds you that while Albee is best known for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” he was always a downtown experimental artist, one who worked in the mainstream while taking aesthetic risks. Talk about a delicate balance.

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