Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The American Dream
The Sandbox

photo: Gabe Evans

The American Dream, the first half of this double bill of early Edward Albee one-act gems, is widely regarded as a landmark masterwork of American absurdism although it can't, despite the whiff of Ionesco that it puts in the air, be fully categorized so simply. The targets of its dark, indelibly disturbing satire are specific: as Albee once said, the play is "an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society". Seeing it now, directed by the playwright nearly fifty years after it was first performed, is to again recognize not only Albee's influence on American drama but also the force of this play's bite: has any other playwright sunk teeth as hard into American complacency and commonplace cruelty? This production boasts two flawless performances by Judith Ivey and George Bartenieff - both understand the heightened style and confidently deliver Albee's dialogue. The production is less effective when Lois Markle joins them but that probably won't be the case by the time you see the show: the actress was an eleventh hour replacement and was clearly still working through the role at the performance I saw. As Markle is central to the evening's second play (The Sandbox, which clocks in at about fifteen minutes) it understandably was not yet where it needs to and will soon be. But never mind: there isn't any good reason to miss these Albee-directed Albee plays.

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