A Delicate Balance

What would you do if you best friends suddenly appeared at your front door, too filled with a nameless fear to stay in their own home, and announced that they were moving in with you?

Already your home is a constant battlefield between your excessively controlling wife and her alcoholic sister, who lives with you.

Now add your 36 year old daughter moving home at the demise of her fourth marriage.  A daughter who is whiny, immature and hysterical when she finds out her old room is currently being occupied by your friends.

That’s the premise of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, A Delicate Balance, playing at the Aurora Theater in Berkeley.  The five actors involved take this difficult, absurdist situation and spin it in directions disturbing, hilarious, confusing and meaningful over the course of three acts and  2 1/2 hours.

Albee is my favorite playwright, now in his 80’s and still working.  He wrote A Delicate Balance in 1966, yet the play holds up perfectly today.

Tobias and Agnes lead a life of upper class luxury, where the big problems are where have the servants hidden the coffee beans and what’s for dinner at the club.  Although their every movement and action needs to be accompanied by the perfect drink, (anisette is too “sticky”, switch to cognac), the alcoholism of Agnes’ younger sister Claire is a constant irritant and the source of endless fighting.

Albee’s dialog is invariable quick and cutting, exposing the heart of both the subject and the speaker. Agnes, played by Kimberly King, has a number of long and difficult speeches which provide exposition and demonstrate her exceptionally controlling and bitchy nature.  Tobias, (Ken Grantham) is often held to mere response–half his dialog in act 3 is simply “yes”.

 

Okay, I give up.  I’ve been trying to write a decent review for 3 days, and can’t seem to find the words.  I think the problem is that Albee is so good that I’m not good enough to come up with a decent recap.

This is a great play, well acted except for a a couple of time Agnes (Kimberly King) lost her place in the hundreds and hundreds of lines of dialogue she has. The Aurora theater is an excellent location, very small with seats on three sides of the “stage”, which is just the floor in the center of the room.  We were in the very back row, but that also only the fourth row, so any seat you can get will be great.  Aurora has extended the run of this play until October 23–get seats if you can.

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