Me, Myself & I
Written by Edward Albee
Adapted and directed by Emily Mann
In the abstract world of Edward Albee, there are patrician women, like those you find in A Delicate Balance and All Over, and then there are vulgar earth mothers, like Mommy in The American Dream and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? When the casting of Elizabeth Ashley was announced for Albee’s new play, Me, Myself & I (through October 31), it was clear that we would be dealing with his earth mother type, for Ashley is a beast of the stage, someone for whom the phrase "chewing the scenery" might have been coined. All of Albee’s characters argue about and toy with language and often wield it as a weapon; as the confused, destructive Mother in Me, Myself & I, Ashley dissects a lot of pesky old bromides. She seems like a lower class of woman than we usually meet in Albee, someone who is stuck with stock phrases that sometimes irk her but never really get her to question them deeply. Mother sits on stage in the first act in a large bed next to her Doctor (Brian Murray), and in Ashley’s playing of the role, there is a broad hint of Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, though Albee isn’t as good-humored as Beckett can be.
Albee’s first play, The Zoo Story, was on a double bill with Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, so he comes by his Beckett influence naturally; at this late point in his stupendously productive career, he has managed to integrate the Beckett voice into his own. Ashley’s Mother has problems with her twin sons, both named Otto (one upper case and one lower case, she explains), and the upper case OTTO (Zachary Booth) says that his absent father will come back one day: "March right in, rich as Croesus, sacks of emeralds, panthers in tow." That’s a classic Beckett sentence in its wondering Irish rhythm, but Albee has his own chewy, unmistakable language too, of course, and his own concerns.
Me, Myself & I is basically a play about twinship and what it can mean, and I’m not certain what it’s saying, finally, about this state of being; this is a play so dense and layered that it needs a senior thesis rather than a theater review. Albee dodges all the sentiment and all the eroticism inherent in his subject; he’s after something else, but what he winds up with is a bit obscure (and too personal?). The ending, which I won’t spoil for you, is a startling and very satisfying coup de theatre that involves the explosion of the simple set into something wholly other (kudos to scenic designer Thomas Lynch for pulling off what must have been a difficult assignment). There is no bad Albee, really, just major Albee, middle-tier Albee and minor Albee. Which category does Me, Myself & I fall into? It’s too early to tell, but my guess is that it belongs in the middle-tier, yet could easily rise up to the playwright’s major leagues.
(photo credit: Joan Marcus)