Edward Albee’s passing last week was a little hard to take: we only have a couple great American Playwrights left. I wrote him a letter once, and he wrote one to me. The letter (above) was a response to my effusive love of the play “The Goat.” I thought I was the only person that would love the play and I wrote Mr. Albee so he wouldn’t get his feelings hurt when the mixed reviews started rolling in.
(The reviews were so mixed, some critics didn’t review it at all, while it went on to win the Tony award for Best Play 2002). When all of your plays are held up to your “big” play, Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which you wrote when you were 30, life can seem like a downward spiral, I suppose.
Turns out Mr. Albee didn’t need the kudos from me; in addition to the Tony, the was a runner-up for a Pulitzer that year. I put the tickets in the memory box and didn’t think too much about it until last week, when I saw Mr. Albee’s obituary.
We rushed into to the theater and took our seats as the house lights flashed a couple quick blinks for the two-minute warning. We sat up close to the stage in the historic Golden Theatre, so close that when Mercedes Ruehl smashes a plate during a climactic scene, I just about jumped out of my chair. There were glass shards lining the edge of the stage. How nobody lost an eye is part of the magic that is Broadway.
Bill Pullman, the level-headed President in the film Independence Day paired with Ruelh. Together they used Albee’s words to lead you to forget how life is when you think YOU have it weird. The lead actress does the only thing you can do when your husband might have a very hairy mistress. She drinks.
Jeffrey Carlson, (Hitch, All My Children) , did an amazing job as an awkward teenager playing an awkward teenager in an awkward play. Years later I would find out he was no teenager-kudos to hair and makeup.
I was so mind-blown by the content of the play that I wrote a letter to the playwright, Edward Albee. Surprised when he wrote me back, one sentence from his letter would forever change me:
“No two people see the same play!”
Think about this, it not only rings true, it magnifies the theater-going experience and it means that even your grandmother might enjoy a play where sex with a goat is analogous to all of man’s depravity. It seems so simple but it served as a springboard to freedom to write some of the grittier things that, up until that time, caused me to shy away.
I’m not sure what I wrote to Mr. Albee that garnered me such a profuse thank you note, and it was likely the last handwritten note that made it into the memory box before email took over the correspondent world.
Rest In Peace Edward Albee 3/12/28-9/16/2016