Play­wright wrote ‘Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf?’

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE | WORLD - By Mark Kennedy

NEW YORK — Three­time Pulitzer Prize-win­ning play­wright Ed­ward Albee, who chal­lenged the­atri­cal con­ven­tion in mas­ter­works such as “Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf?” and “A Del­i­cate Bal­ance,” died Fri­day, his per­sonal as­sis­tant said. He was 88.

He died at his home in Mon­tauk, east of New York City, as­sis­tant Jackob Holder said. No cause of death was given, al­though Albee had suf­fered from di­a­betes.

With the deaths of Arthur Miller and Au­gust Wil­son in 2005, Albee was ar­guably Amer­ica’s great­est liv­ing play­wright.

Sev­eral years ago, be­fore un­der­go­ing ex­ten­sive surgery, Albee penned the fol­low­ing note to be is­sued at the time of his death: “To all of you who have made my be­ing alive so won­der­ful, so ex­cit­ing and so full, my thanks and all my love.”

Albee was pro­claimed the play­wright of his gen­er­a­tion af­ter his blis­ter­ing “Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf?” opened on Broad­way in 1962. The Tony­win­ning play, still con­sid­ered Albee’s finest, was made into an award-win­ning 1966 film star­ring El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor and Richard Bur­ton.

The play’s sharp-tongued hu­mor and dark themes were the hall­marks of Albee’s style. In more than 30 plays, Albee skew­ered such main­stays of Amer­i­can cul­ture as mar­riage, child-rear­ing, re­li­gion and up­per-class com­forts.

“If you have no wounds, how can you know you’re alive?” a char­ac­ter asks in Albee’s 1996 “The Play About the Baby.”

Albee chal­lenged au­di­ences to ques­tion their as­sump­tions about so­ci­ety and about theater it­self. Play­wright Ed­ward Albee won three Pulitzer Prizes. His first was for “A Del­i­cate Bal­ance” in 1967.

“Plays are acts of protest meant to change peo­ple,” he once told the Star Tri­bune of Min­neapo­lis.

His un­con­ven­tional style won him great ac­claim but also led to a nearly 20-year drought of crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial recog­ni­tion be­fore his 1994 play, “Three Tall Women,” gar­nered his third Pulitzer Prize.

His other Pulitzers were for “A Del­i­cate Bal­ance” ( 1967) and “Seas­cape” (1975).

Many of his pro­duc­tions in the years af­ter “Seas­cape” were sav­aged by the press as in­con­se­quen­tial trick­ery, a shadow of his for­mer works.

But af­ter “Three Tall Women,” a play he called an “ex­or­cis­ing of demons,” he had sev­eral ma­jor pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing “The Play About the Baby” and “The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?,” which won him his sec­ond Tony for best play in 2002.

Many of his works had sim­i­lar things in com­mon: do­mes­tic ran­cor in­flamed by booze, a sense of un­known anx­i­ety, a lost child who cre­ates a mar­i­tal fric­tion and pre­cise but flail­ing lan­guage that al­ter­nates be­tween comic and pro­found.

Albee was born in 1928 and was adopted by a wealthy sub­ur­ban New York cou­ple. His fa­ther, Reed Albee, ran the Kei­thAl­bee chain of vaude­ville the­aters; his mother, Frances Albee, was a so­cialite and a com­mand­ing pres­ence who kept a hold on him for much of his life.

Es­tranged from his par­ents, Albee moved to Man­hat­tan’s Green­wich Vil­lage and worked as a mes­sen­ger for West­ern Union be­fore gain­ing no­tice with “The Zoo Story,” a one-act play about two strangers meet­ing on a bench in Cen­tral Park. Writ­ten in 1958, it was first pro­duced in Ber­lin, trans­lated into Ger­man.

With “Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf?” and 1964’s “Tiny Alice,” Albee shook up a Broad­way that had been dom­i­nated by Ten­nes­see Wil­liams and Miller.

It won five Tonys in­clud­ing best play, ac­tor (Arthur Hill) and ac­tress (Uta Ha­gen), and the film ver­sion won five Os­cars in­clud­ing best ac­tress (Tay­lor) and sup­port­ing ac­tress (Sandy Den­nis).

Albee was hon­ored by the Kennedy Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in 1996 for his life­time con­tri­bu­tions.

“I don’t like the idea of get­ting older and older be­cause there’s meant to be a time when that has to stop,” Albee said in 2001. “Dy­ing strikes me as be­ing a great waste of time.”

THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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