Edward Albee’s two one act plays “Marriage Play”, written in 1987, and “Finding the Sun” written in 1983, finally get their UK premiere’s as a Double Bill at the Cottelsoe, NT. Both are directed by Anthony Page, who has directed two of Albee’s plays in recent years, “Three Tall Women” and A Delicate Balance”.
Both plays go together very well as both explore the pain of relationships, the first a marriage in crises, and the second a tangled gay relationship.
The first act, “Marriage Play”, lasts 1 hour and concerns Jack and Gillian, a couple who have been married for 30 years, despite both being unfaithful. However, on a particular afternoon Jack arrives home from work early and simply says to Gillian that he is leaving her. What occurs is a sparing match with the tough Gillian ridiculing Jack and not excepting that he wishes to leave her, and Jack trying to stand up to her.
The play starts off promising with sharp dark comedy and wonderful one liners, gripping us to an exciting fever. I mean, Gillian has kept a diary of each of their love making sessions and is now writing a book on them!! We ask ourselves, will he leave her? His he just pretending? Does he really want to leave her? Is he going through a mid-life crises? How tough is Gillian after all? Maybe it is Jack who is stronger? However, as the play goes on the writing becomes sloppy and loses a lot of its early momentum finishing with a puff rather than a bang. Nevertheless it is still an interesting and entertaining play with many witty lines and some strong acting by Sheila Gish and Bill Paterson.
The second play, “Finding the Sun”, is set on a Long Island beach for privileged conservatives. On the beach are Daniel and Benjamin, who used to be lovers. However, they are now married to Cordelia and Abigail, even though they are still in love with each other. Albee has set up an interesting situation because both wives are aware of their husband’s past and he explores the problems of how all four cope with the situation. Also on the beach is Daniel’s father who is now married to Cordelia’s mother!! These two also know of the situation and are not too bothered on letting a mother and her sixteen year old boy know all about their children’s situation !!
This play lasts just under an hour and is a witty and dark drama that exposes the pain one suffers when one betrays oneself in order to conform to what society expects of you.
This Double Bill has received mixed notices from the popular press... THE TIMES headlines, “An Edward Albee double bill on marriages in trouble leaves our reviewer unimpressed”. BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE , the Times reviewer says of Marriage Play, “Gish and Paterson are highly watchable performers, and as meticulous as the script allows, but they cannot disguise the fact that they are playing exemplars rather than people.” CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “Although both works are intriguing, they cannot stand comparison with his greatest plays.” He goes on to say, ’Marriage Play is “a second-rate play”. And goes on to say, “You leave this double-bill feeling that you have had a couple of tasty starters but missed out on the main course.” MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN on 'Finding the Sun', “Neither Anthony Page's atmospheric production….nor the performances of Pauline Lynch and Polly Walker .. can disguise the play's wistful wispiness. Marriage Play deserves a better partner.” PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, “Both plays sound as though they were written for a commission rather than to obey some fierce creative imperative.” NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “Magnificently disturbing double-bill.” PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says of ‘Finding the Sun’ says, “Too elliptic to strike home.” BRIAN LOGAN for TIME OUT says, “ 'Marriage Play' fails interestingly, ‘Finding the Sun’ flops catastrophically”
Not great plays, but still plenty to keep you interested and entertained.