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Theater review: 'Three Tall Women' at El Centro Theatre

November 19, 2009 |  6:50 pm

400.threewomen Edward Albee devotees needn't be urged to see "Three Tall Women" at the El Centro Theatre. However, those wary of America's most unpredictable living playwright may require nudging to sample the rewards that this suave West Coast Ensemble staging of Albee's 1994 Pulitzer winner delivers.
Consider Eve Sigall, whose arresting performance as A, the eldest titular female, easily justifies attendance. Either 92 or 91 (there is early Alzheimer's afoot), A centers Albee's deeply personal study, based on his own adoptive mother, and Sigall, pitched directly between Ruth Gordon and Piper Laurie, nails each hairpin turn.
Her caretaker is B (Jan Sheldrick), an acerbically sympathetic fiftysomething given to knitting and zingers. We gradually discern that A is who B will become, just as C (Leah Myette), a brusque 26-year-old legal aide, is who B used to be.
Their symbiotic trek around A's history comprises the occasionally baffling, often darkly funny Act 1. In Act 2, Albee deepens his syntax, the women now redrawn as specific versions of A.  With the advent of A's silent, long-estranged son (Michael Geniac), a moving meditation on mortality emerges.
Director Michael Matthews keeps the mood as dove-toned yet skewed as designer Kurt Boetcher's fractured bedroom set, with assets in Tim Swiss' subtle lighting, Sharon McGunigle's archetypal costumes and Rebecca Kessin's evocative sound.

Ultimately, though, it's all about A and the selves she incites. Besides the remarkable Sigall, company stalwart Sheldrick sometimes exposes technique as B, but her arch deadpan is richly apt, and Myette does everything possible to humanize C's pat, youthfully impatient character. Their mutual affinity reflects Albee's mordant lyricism, and recommends this thoughtfully elegant reverie.

– David C. Nichols

"Three Tall Women," El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 20. $20. or (323) 460-4443. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photo: Leah Myette, Eve Sigall and Jan Sheldrick. Photo credit: Carla Barnett.