Time Out Theater Review: "The Lady From Dubuque"
Updated: 03/09/2012 11:30 AM
By: David Cote - Time Out New York
Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre company is offering up a new staging of Edward Albee's 1980 play "The Lady From Dubuque." Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following report.
Remember “Get The Guests” from Edward Albee’s "Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?" It’s the impromptu game of social sadism played by George and Martha. In his 1980 metaphysical fable "The Lady From Dubuque," Albee flips the rules. One morning, two suburbanites find their living room occupied by a couple of mysterious strangers. In this instance, the guests get them.
"The Lady From Dubuque" dates from Albee’s infamous down period, when critics who had hailed his 1960s breakthroughs like "The Zoo Story" and "A Delicate Balance" found the eloquent, angry young man had grown into a self-conscious avant-gardist drawn to esoteric topics such as Darwinian evolution and Maoist philosophy.
In some ways, "Dubuque" was a return to Albee’s early-phase naturalism. It takes place in a concrete locale: the handsome, modern living room of married couple Jo and Sam.
Jo, smashingly played by the passionate Laila Robins, is in the agonized terminal stages of an unnamed disease. Sam, played by Michael Hayden, is consumed with grief.
One morning, they discover a strange couple in their living room: a regal woman named Elizabeth and her bemused companion Oscar, delightfully played by Jane Alexander and Peter Francis James.
What’s going on, you might ask? The answer never comes in this existentialist puzzle. But one thing is clear: Elizabeth has arrived to help Jo in her passage to death.
Director David Esbjornson’s handsome staging unfolds with fluid grace, making this an optimal production of second-tier Albee, which is still powerful stuff.
In 1980, "The Lady From Dubuque" played on Broadway for just 12 performances. Thanks to the Signature Theatre Company, this strange, wounded and often lovely creature gets to live a little longer.
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