Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

18 March 2006

My New Hero

I've been reading Edward Albee, like, religiously for the last three or four weeks. I have the complete works (the first two at least: volume three isn't published until later this month) and I've just been reading the plays in order. Some, of course, I've already read: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Goat or Who is Sylvia? Most people have seen the former and the latter was in Los Angeles last year. Albee was very popular in the 1960s with plays like The Zoo Story and The Death of Bessie Smith and he sort of went out of vogue in the mid-seventies. His plays received a lot of mixed reviews, etc. But he came back into prominence in the mid-1990s with three plays which did very well: Three Tall Women (which I think won a Pulitzer), The Play About the Baby and The—aforementioned—Goat.

I have to say, though, reading his complete works, I feel like every single one of them deserves to be seen. I think I'd like to direct most of these plays. There are only, really, two out of the fifteen or sixteen I've read so far that I haven't liked. He wrote this adaptation of Carson McCrullers' Ballad of the Sad Café that is wonderful and his play Seascape is just fabulous. He also has this weird play called Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung where an old woman tells a really long story on the deck of a ship while Chairman Mao (on the same ship deck, but never acknowledging the woman) talks about American Imperialism and the importance of war and violence in the struggle against oppression. It's fascinating stuff! There are also several really good drawing room plays, each exploring facets of humanity that feel split open by his work: as though no one had ever talked about them before he did. The man really is brilliant. He might soon be my favorite playwright.

I while back I went on a similar binge with Thornton Wilder. It ended amicably. I directed a few of his short plays and they were received fairly but unemotionally. Thornton Wilder can't really inspire devotion the way I think Albee could.